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Sufi Bikers and Islamic Humanitarians: New Islamic Movements from Southeast Asia to West Africa


Date: Wednesday 18 May 2022

Time: 14.00 – 16.00

Location: Kungstenen, Aula Magna building, 7th Floor, Stockholm University

Aryo Danusari, University of Indonesia
Mara Leichtman, Michigan State University
Moderator: Johan Lindquist, Stockholm University
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Urban Mawlid in Contemporary Indonesia
Aryo Danusiri
, University of Indonesia
A striking new phenomenon in Indonesia is the heightened public visibility of different Islamic groups, which vie with each other for attention. The Sufi-oriented voluntary study groups led by young scholars of Arab Hadrami Sayyid descent are of particular interest. Since 2006, these groups have weekly unleashed lavish multimedia performances on Jakarta's streets that move across and around roadways, parks, and other public places, as well as mosques and tombs, attracting tens of thousands of young adherents. The followers are highly mobile, using motorbikes, communication technologies, and the Internet. Remarkably, these weekly events celebrate the mawlid or the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, which, until recently, was an annual event sponsored by the State and celebrated through a range of vernacular religious rituals. It unsettles the secular status of urban public spaces and worries many self-identifying secularist Indonesians. By posing mobility as an interface of urban tactics, moral discipline, and citizen formation, I contribute to the emerging theorization of religious authority, and new media, the urban and Islamic youth movements in the global south.

Da‘wa as Development: Kuwaiti Islamic Charity in Africa
Mara Leichtman
, Michigan State University
Direct Aid (formerly Africa Muslims Agency), Kuwait’s largest charity focused on Africa, carefully mediates between Gulf donor wishes, aid recipient needs, Kuwaiti and African government regulations, and various development priorities. Since the 1980s, Direct Aid has been centralizing religious and development work in complexes that comprise orphanages, schools, clinics, and mosques. The Islamic NGO therefore cannot be confined to narrow Western categorizations of Gulf Salafi da‘wa (proselytizing) institutions. Direct Aid’s approach is strategically grounded in comprehensiveness/“holism,” which serves to blur established categories of “charity,” “relief,” and “development” to become da‘wa-as-development. What is the cultural and religious impact of Gulf funding in Africa? How do Kuwait headquarters interact with African beneficiaries? Based on multi-sited fieldwork from 2016-2018, this talk examines Kuwaiti-funded projects in Tanzania and Senegal.
Aryo Danusiri is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Indonesia. An affiliate of the Sensory Ethnography Lab, he holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology and Critical Media Practice from Harvard. His research has revolved around political anthropology, mobility, and STS.
Mara Leichtman is associate professor of Anthropology at Michigan State University and was a 2020-2021 Luce/American Council of Learned Societies Fellow in Religion, Journalism and International Affairs. As a 2016-2017 Fulbright Scholar at American University of Kuwait, she launched a project on Gulf Islamic humanitarianism in Africa. She is author of Shi‘i Cosmopolitanisms in Africa: Lebanese Migration and Religious Conversion in Senegal (Indiana University Press). She co-edited New Perspectives on Islam in Senegal: Conversion, Migration, Wealth, Power, and Femininity (Palgrave Macmillan); The Shiʿa of Lebanon: New Approaches to Modern History, Contemporary Politics, and Religion (Die Welt des Islams); and Muslim Cosmopolitanism: Movement, Identity, and Contemporary Reconfigurations (City and Society).
Johan Lindquist is Professor of Social Anthropology and Head of the Department of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University. He is a member of the editorial board of Pacific Affairs, has published articles in journals such as Ethnos, JRAI, Public Culture, Pacific Affairs, and International Migration Review, is the co-editor of Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity (University of Hawai’i Press, 2013), the author of The Anxieties of Mobility: Development and Migration in the Indonesian Borderlands (University of Hawai’i Press, 2009), and the director of the documentary film B.A.T.A.M. (Documentary Educational Resources, 2005).
The roundtable is co-organised by the Department of Social Anthropology and Stockholm Center for Global Asia, Stockholm University.