Friday, August 19, 2011

Ritual guardians versus civil servants as cultural brokers in the New Order era

Probojo, Lany. 2010. "RITUAL GUARDIANS VERSUS CIVIL SERVANTS AS CULTURAL BROKERS IN THE NEW ORDER ERA". Indonesia and the Malay World. 38 (110): 95-107.

Probojo, Lany1
Indonesia & the Malay World; Mar 2010, Vol. 38 Issue 110, p95-107, 13p, 2 Maps
This paper examines two leading social roles in the island of Tidore: that of the traditional clan leaders and that of the civil servants, who advance two competing versions of Islam. While the traditional Tidore Islam espoused by the clan leaders is integrated with ancestor worship, the civil servants espouse a more strictly Qur'anic Islam endorsed by the Indonesian state ideology of Pancasila and modernisation. The two forms of Islam have come to represent a struggle for political power within Tidore society. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
This article has dealt with the relationship between ‘real’ Islam and the local Islamic belief system of Tidore, and the important roles of cultural brokers. To a certain extent, advocating ‘real’ Islam has more to do with politics than with the belief system itself, in the Tidore context. It is still unclear which will eventually prevail: local tradition or the ‘real’ Islam. Another question is whether Islam could be maintained without a local tradition to support it, and indeed if there is any manifestation of Islam in the Indonesian context which is not ‘local’ Islam (Woodward 1996). This is a significant question, since the case of Tidore shows that their Islam is only understandable in its traditional context. Tidore Islam is fully accepted as Islam, even though it incorporates many local traditions, and the way the civil servants advocate so-called Islam Pancasila, rejecting their own local tradition, has to be understood as a political strategy. They have no option but to acknowledge the local tradition, as they could never achieve their objectives without the approval of the traditional elites, the sowohi and joguru, so championing ‘real’ Islam seems more to do with their position as civil servants representing state interests and policies. But are they really convinced that it is right to reject their own ancestors, which are their identity?

The debate on Islam Pancasila was very popular at the time I conducted field research in Tidore from 1989 to 1990. There were certain civil servants who were fundamentally against any local tradition because they belonged to the particular Islamic school of thought which would not follow anything but the Qur’an, but only a few Tidore take this uncompromising position. It is they who are the most fervent advocates of modernisation, of a better education system and of more technology. They contribute to stereotypes of the Tidore as ‘primitive ancestor-worshippers’ whose local traditions waste time, strain the economy and are an impediment to modernisation. The kind of modernisation called for by the Indonesian government would indeed be unacceptable in Tidore if it were to damage the local tradition, but the local tradition is actually not an impediment, as it is an adaptable agent for integration. Local rituals are the village institutions which can transmit development programmes from the state to peasants or to fishermen. The traditional elites can act as cultural brokers in negotiations between the village society and the government in matters of cultural policy as the authorities in village society. While civil servants proclaim their own form of ‘real’ Islam as the necessary religion of modernisation, the modernisation they actually achieve is based upon the local Tidore Islam, which is the source of traditional authority and identity in Tidore.

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