28 Sep Seminar | Sharia embedded: The bureaucratization of Islam in Brunei and Singapore | Dominik Müller
What happens when Islam becomes translated into the language of contemporary state bureaucracy? How do bureaucratic schemes of Islam diffuse into society? What roles do state attempts of governing religion play in wider contestations over desirable Islamic normativity in different Southeast Asian societies? In this seminar, Dominik Müller will outline the conceptual contours of an anthropological research group project that investigates the bureaucratization of Islam as a social and cultural phenomenon in five Southeast Asian countries. Building on his own empirical contributions to the project, he will present ethnographic illustrations from two micro-states where Islam and Malay Muslims constitutionally enjoy a special status — namely Brunei Darussalam and Singapore — providing analyses of phenomena such as bureaucratized exorcism, traditional healers turning to “legitimate” Islamic medicine, and the regulation and banning of shrines invested with supernatural power (keramat). National histories, institutional structures, and local power-knowledge regimes differ widely, but in both countries, state-sponsored Islamic bureaucracies aim to inform (if not prescribe) the direction Islamic discourse is taking in their territories, whereas non-state actors position themselves towards this attempted exercise of classificatory power in diverse ways. Taking the comparison between Brunei and Singapore as a point of departure, Dominik will reflect on “family resemblances” of bureaucratic Islam and link this discussion to theoretical debates in the anthropology of bureaucracy.
Dominik Müller is a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Halle, Germany), where he heads the German Research Foundation’s (DFG) Emmy Noether Research Group “The Bureaucratization of Islam and its Socio-Legal Dimensions in Southeast Asia.” He is also a non-resident research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Asian Legal Studies, and a fellow in the Daimler and Benz Foundation’s post-doctoral program. His research focuses on the political and legal anthropology of Southeast Asia (especially Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore). Dominik has held short-term positions at Stanford University, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, the University of Oxford, and the National University of Singapore. This year he has been a stipendiary fellow at Harvard Law School’s “Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change.” His publications include the monograph Islam, Politics and Youth in Malaysia: The Pop-Islamist Reinvention of PAS (2014) and articles in journals such as Asian Survey, Globalizations, Indonesia and the Malay World, South East Asia Research, and the Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs.