Islam and Identity in Indonesia: The Case of Arabic Names in Java
Date(s) - 02/08/2023
Department of Anthropology & Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations
Since the publication of Geertz’ Religion of Java in 1960, this most populous Indonesian island has experienced a pronounced upsurge in more standardized, normative varieties of Islamic practice, evident in mosques, use of headscarves, fasting, zakat tithing, pilgrimages, and daily prayers. However, the analysis of linguistic data on personal names also tells a more complex story. While the bestowal of Arabic names has been steadily rising as a sign of piety, Javanese names are dramatically lengthening in ways that exhibit an exuberant tendency towards hybridization, involving Western and indigenous Javanese words. The results of this study reveal forms of identity construction that have a long history in Indonesia, and demonstrate the importance of a linguistic perspective on religion and culture.