Theses Doctoral

Memory and Difference: Coherence and Paradox in Javanese Muslims’ Stories of the Past

Meyer, Verena

This dissertation project employs both ethnographic and textual research to study the role of rational coherence and paradox in Javanese Muslims’ theological understandings and political positionings. My research site is the Javanese city of Yogyakarta known for its mixture of traditionalist or Sufi and modernist Muslim reform organizations.

The project intervenes in two distinct scholarly debates concerning the everyday practice of Islam and the social ties it engenders and brings them into a new synthesis: 1) debates around the paradigm of Islam as a coherent discursive tradition and the meaning of coherence, given the complexity, ambivalence, and fragmentation of Muslims’ everyday lives; and 2) studies of the relation and meaning of traditionalism and modernism as distinct orientations, embedded in larger movements of global Islamic reform, and responding to political pressures on Muslims to position themselves as moderate.

It focuses on discourses and practices around memory as a node where questions of coherence and ideological belonging intersect. Both traditionalists and modernists remember their history, claiming stewardship over their past, or preserving and commemorating it to bring about a desired present and future; but the politics of commemoration diverge widely as traditionalists and modernists, in their memory practices, navigate multiple, conflicting demands and diverging epistemologies and ideologies. The study seeks to highlight how memory is mobilized to make claims of legitimate knowledge and power; how different kinds of discursive or ritual traditions around memory are legible as identity markers of particular religious and ideological orientations, especially traditionalism and modernism; and how the juxtaposition of conflicting epistemologies and ontologies is negotiated and understood within and between these different orientations.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Ewing, Katherine
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 16, 2021