EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Reflexive transformation and religious revitalisation: perspectives from Southeast Asia

Location Chem LT3
Date and Start Time 21 Sep, 2006 at 14:00


Alexander Horstmann (Tallinn University) email
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Short Abstract

In many parts of Southeast Asia a local ethos has survived in confronting processes of globalisation. This local ethos draws sustenance from the reflexive transformation and revitalisation of traditional religious beliefs.

Long Abstract

Southeast Asia is a crossroads of many religious influences, which have always been treated syncretically. One precondition for this basically peaceful syncretism is the fact that the different religious communities largely eschew orthodoxy and content themselves with their followers' commitment to a particular ritual practice (orthopractice). As a result, Southeast Asia still presents a highly complex cultural and religiously dynamic picture. The striving for supremacy of certain world religions is a relatively recent phenomenon in Southeast Asia. It is taking place in the wake of an expansion of the scriptural religions and their interpretation as monotheisms. Although these monotheistic religions largely appear to have superseded indigenous beliefs, in local conditions not only these beliefs but also the mechanisms of conflict regulation shaped by them have both survived. One of these mechanisms is religious practice organised not exactly along confessional lines, but rather incorporating adherents of different religious communities ritually and committing them normatively to common values. In this way, in many parts of Southeast Asia a local ethos has survived in confronting processes of globalisation. This local ethos draws sustenance from the revitalisation of putative traditions, which have simultaneously been subjected to an innovative process of reinterpretation. In this process, moments of a flexible and reflexive confrontation with both expanding world religions and Western modernity can be recognised. Against this background, indigenous religions function not least as a resource for a critique of modernisation. As a result, the creative reappropriation and reflexive transformation of traditional beliefs has far-reaching impacts on interethnic relations - which this workshop intends to analyse.

Chair: Alexander Horstmann


Global trends in religion: terrorism, tourism, migration and the reaffirmation of Hindu identity in Bali

Author: Thomas Reuter (University of Melbourne)  email
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Long Abstract

Religion, the human endeavour of pursuing the inner purpose of life in the context of an ever changing social and material world, has been integral to the lives of many individuals and to the constitution of human societies throughout the ages, and continues to be so. As the world we live in changes, however, our experience of life changes with it. New forms of experience create demand for religious concepts and practices commensurate with contemporary life. Max Weber took the pulse of this process of attunement when, in the early 20th century, he charted the commensurate features of modern life and modern religion in his classic essay on The Protestant Work Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism (1958 [1904]). The world and its political economy have changed again since. Perhaps the current, post-modern shift may not be as profound as the advent of modernity, which saw a large proportion of humanity move away from agriculturalist or pastoralist ways of life to an alienating experience of life as urbanised wage-earners in an industrialised capitalist society. And yet the post-modern shift may be just as significant because the transition has been so much quicker.

In this paper I will briefly discuss new forms of religiosity that have been emerging as broad international trends from the 1960s onward, and how these trends in religions are commensurate with our contemporary experience of life in the post-modern context of a technology-driven process of economic and cultural globalisation. I will then focus on one of these trends, the emergence of "new local religions" that seek to uphold the uniqueness and often stress the exclusivity of local traditions. This trend will be exemplified by presenting an ethnographic case study on the revitalisation of Hindu Balinese identity in the aftermath of the 2002 terrorist attack. Before I turn my attention to Bali, however, I will attempt to draw some connections between this trend and two coeval trends: One towards a universal, post-traditional monistic spirituality, which stresses the uniqueness of each 'traveller' and his or her spiritual journey through life, and through the maze of cross-cultural religious diversity; the other towards a fundamentalist approach to religion that negates the contemporary experience of increased exposure to cultural and religious heterogeneity.

Cultural solutions to religious conflicts? The reconciliation process in the Moluccas, Eastern Indonesia

Author: Birgit Bräuchler (Monash University)  email
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Long Abstract

One of the most violent conflicts of the post-Suharto era took place in the Moluccas, Eastern Indonesia, from 1999 until 2002. Due to a strategic mobilisation process it was mainly fought out between Christians and Muslims. After the conflict, local actors in the Moluccas hope to build up sustainable peace through the revival of traditions that are supposed to overcome religious differences and enable a harmonious living together. Taking up these local voices or voices that claim to be local, this paper wants to reflect on the reconciliatory potential of the revival of tradition.

The revival process benefits from a new law passed by the Indonesian government in 1999 that transfers political authority to the districts and enables villages to go back to their traditional governmental structures. This new policy was accompanied by a trend of revitalization of adat - tradition and customary law - in many parts of Indonesia. Some observers pointed to the reconciliatory potential of adat in various places in Indonesia, but others warn against a rash identification of adat with harmony and peace. In my paper I would like to discuss the option of a cultural approach to conflict solution and reconciliation in the Moluccas. Talking about the challenges and problems of the revival-reconciliation interplay, I try to reveal both the integrative as well as the exclusivist character of revived traditions that are supposed to overcome religious differences.

Local ethos or alternative globalisation? The discourse on community in Thailand

Author: Alexander Horstmann (Tallinn University)  email
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Long Abstract

In contemporary Thailand, the concept of community is intensively discussed by local people as well as local intellectuals. While some scholars argued that the village community of intellectuals is only a mirage, local people use the concept of community (chumchon) as a basis for political organization against the perceived threat of the state and globalization from the "West" and the influence of the "North". This concept of community is loaded with emotion of local ethos, cohesion and solidarity, and religion. The paper looks at social organization and networks of people in Southern Thailand and on their conceptualization of community. A key question informing this paper is how far the community is a local concept or a concept that developed in reflexive dialogue with Europe. The paper thus will explore the ethos of the community in South Thailand and the use of it in the representation and in the discourse on self-sufficiency and environmentalism.