Council on Anthropology and Education
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
In this paper, I argue that schools should be understood as arenas of "deliberation" (Varenne 2007) about the national framework and the role of religion within the nation, with real consequences for citizenship and coexistence. On this front, schools are important institutions for “transforming experiences of ‘the everyday’…into categories of social differentiation and identification (Stambach 2006:10). I use Indonesia as a case study, starting on a national scale, comparing how conceptions of the religion-state relationship and the accommodation of diversity were mobilized through the educational system during the authoritarian period (1966-1998) and in present-day democratic Indonesia. Current debates about the role of education and resulting revisions to the national curriculum indicate not one clear direction or framework for plural coexistence within the nation, but several being deployed at the same time as schools are called upon to emphasize religious principles as the foundation of good character and address a growing intolerance facing Indonesian society. I compare and contrast the discourses to those in current civic and religious education textbooks in Indonesia, demonstrating the tensions within and among the textbooks that link to major debates in the broader society regarding the place of religion in the nation and the accommodation of religious diversity. I draw on the anthropological literature on secularism and on education by arguing that the existing position of religion within the nation- and the politics of difference that emerge in that context- do not necessarily constitute an emergent public ethical culture.