Imagining Indonesian Islam as a Center

New Mediations and Old Concepts of Power

  • Martin Slama Institute for Social Anthropology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
Keywords: Islam, New Media, power centre, periphery, Indonesia, Southeast Asia


This article advocates an approach that is conscious of the offline geographies and geopolitics that inform contemporary social media activities. It does so with regard to the Islamic world, examining how Indonesian Muslims imagine their place within it. These imaginaries are increasingly expressed on social media through a variety of discourses in various forms (blogs, memes, videos, etc.). Moreover, in Indonesia today social media have become the main platforms on which different views on the position of Indonesian Islam in the Islamic world collide. More than any other media, they have become a contested space, as they play a crucial role in defining—and rejecting—the very concept of an Indonesian Islam, which today is mainly propagated as Islam Nusantara or the Islam of the Archipelago. The article analyzes the online strategies and social media activities of the proponents of Islam Nusantara, concentrating on the spatial hierarchies that their discourses entail as well as how offline geographies inform their attempts to translate offline significance into online visibility. In a second analytical step, the article considers the literature on Southeast Asian concepts of power with conceptualizations of a center as one of their main features, and argues that today such concepts re-emerge where one would not initially expect them, namely in the online discussions about Islam Nusantara and the position of Indonesian Islam in the Islamic world. The article thus examines imaginaries of transforming centers and peripheries from the particular angle of Islamic identity discourses that are becoming increasingly significant in Indonesia’s public sphere.

Author Biography

Martin Slama, Institute for Social Anthropology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.