Islamic Spectrum in Java By Timothy Daniels (Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2009. hbk. 210 pages)

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Christina Sunardi



Timothy Daniels’ Islamic Spectrum in Java critically examines the myriad
of ways in which Javanese Muslims draw on religious and secular ideas to
project desirable futures for their local societies, for the Indonesian nation,
and for Indonesia’s place in the global economic, political, and cultural
structures of the twenty-first century. This book identifies a broad range
of desirable futures projected by Javanese Muslims, as well as a range of
beliefs and practices that comprise Javanese Islam (12). While this engaging
work is very likely to appeal to scholars in many fields, theoretically
and methodologically it is foremost an anthropological study. Synthesizing
symbolic and cognitive anthropology in order to “provide ‘thick description’
1 of polysemous symbols . . . and to ascertain the social distribution
of knowledge and formation of mental representations in various contexts
(4),” Daniels draws primarily on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the
Yogyakarta area of south-central Java from 2003 to 2004.
Daniels makes a complex argument, focusing on issues of globalization,
localization, social change, identity formation, and the place of Islam
in Javanese culture. He contends that in projecting a range of desirable futures,
Javanese Muslims are able to negotiate globalization and directions
of social change on their own terms by drawing from local culture and
their interpretations of Islam in different ways. In particular, he examines
to what extent particular ideological positions expressed by Javanese Muslims
contribute to or undermine processes of equalization—“processes of
weakening, undermining, and lessening hierarchical formations” (8). In
supporting his argument, he addresses other related issues as well, including
concepts of spiritual power, gender, sexuality, and class ...

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