Expressing and Contesting Java-Islam Encounters: Performing Arts at the Crossroads


ACLS Fellowship Program




The link between religion and culture is both intrinsic and complex. Human interaction worldwide creates transcultural practices and perspectives that are manifested in both spiritual and artistic domains. In Indonesia, the performing arts often serve as a major locus for this blending of beliefs and practices. This study examines discourses of transculturalism, the performing arts, and Islam among the Javanese, the largest cultural group in a nation with the largest Muslim population in the world. Indonesia’s long process of Islamization has given rise to rich variations in the content and context of the performing arts through the mixing and matching of Islam with Java-Hindu ritual contexts, stories in wayang puppet theater, and performance practices in instrumentation and melody of gamelan (traditional gong ensemble). Ultimately, this study addresses the history and diversity of both traditional and popular Indonesian Muslim expression, while unpacking Indonesia’s modern sociocultural and religious development.