Organized Panel Session
Over the past several decades, scholars of Southeast Asian Islam have devoted substantial energy to constructing categories and building binaries so that we could better understand the diversity of Islamic thought and practice in the region. Certain foundational binaries - like the supposed distinction between pure and syncretic Islam - have already been thoroughly criticized and reformulated, but other oppositions remain influential in the field. They include: modernists versus traditionalists, Islamists versus secularists, Muslim insiders versus scholarly outsiders, the colonized versus the free, and shari’a versus European-style law. While these categories help us make sense of the diverse manifestations of Southeast Asian Islam, they can also obscure as much as they reveal. Accordingly, this panel examines cases of blurred and even collapsing binaries. What are the analytical benefits and limitations of these polarized categories for the study of Southeast Asian Islam? What is at stake in creating, maintaining, and challenging such sharp distinctions for scholars and religious practitioners alike? What are some of the social, political, religious, and intellectual consequences that emerge when binaries break down? By focusing on these and related questions, this panel seeks to bring new anthropological and historical research on Southeast Asian Islam into critical conversation.