Cosmopolitan Infrastructure: The Entanglement of Religion and the Urban in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia
Religion and the City are two entities discussed in the recent literature on cosmopolitanism. However, there have been few studies that interrogate the ways in which spatial urban transformation mediate notions of religious cosmopolitanism. Why does urban infrastructure have a significant role in the development of new Islamic movements? This paper addresses these issues through stories of an emerging youth Islamic movement in Jakarta led by Hadrami diaspora charismatic leaders. A striking phenomenon in Indonesia since the fall of President Suharto (1998) is the heightened public visibility of different Islamic groups, which compete for attention in the national capital, Jakarta. Of particular interest are the Sufi-oriented study groups led by young scholars of Arab Hadrami sayyid descent. Since 2006, these groups have unleashed lavish weekly multimedia performances on Jakarta’s streets, taking advantage of the perpetual traffic jams by engaging passers-by and halting cars. These motorcades move across Jakarta’s roadways, parks, and other public places, as well as mosques and tombs, attracting tens of thousands of young adherents. The followers of this movement are highly mobile, using motorbikes, communication technologies, and the Internet. Remarkably, these weekly events celebrate mawlid or the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, which, until recently, was sponsored by the State and celebrated through a range of vernacular religious rituals.. By focusing on the critical practices of these Islamic youth groups in assembling various circulatory forms, I will highlight the ways in which these groups invoke their ‘right to the city,’ remaking urban-sacred networks and cultivating new subjectivities.
Aryo Danusiri is a video artist and anthropologist born in Jakarta. His works have been exploring the circulations of new keywords, violence and memory in reconfiguring political and social landscape of post-authoritarian Indonesian 1998. Those works have premiered at various festivals, including Rotterdam, Amnesty Amsterdam, Mead Festival and Yamagata “New Asia Current.” His first feature length documentary, Playing Between Elephants was awarded “Movies That Matters for Best Human Rights Film” at Jakarta International Film Festival 2007 and “Best Documentary” at Brussels Independent IFF. In 2005, he finished his Master’s Degree in Visual Cultural Studies from Tromsø University, Norway. Danusiri is the filmmaker of Ragam Media Network, a Jakarta based institution that develops visual media as a catalyst for cross-cultural learning and community knowledge management. At present, he is doing his Ph.D. in the Media Anthropology program, with a secondary field in Critical Media Practice at Harvard University.