This is the second session of a two-part roundtable examining ways that states and religions in modern Southeast Asia are and are not mutually constitutive. Building from the anthropology of the state, political studies of religion, philosophy, and the history of social categorization, comparative studies discuss how boundary-making related to belief has been crucial to the evolution of contemporary states and how state authority in such categorization enables and constrains, while being inherently limited. Meanwhile, for religious believers the affective power of social categorization to make sense of an experience or creed and share it with others is necessary, yet fraught. Looking at religiously-framed social categorization also helps probe the limits of state-making; because religion deals with absolute truth and transcendent realities, it cannot be wholly subsumed by the state. States frequently involve themselves in certain religious matters although not others, speaking to what practices are legible and legitimate. Religious communities help create the state by participation in assigned categories, calls for regulation, and resistance against such categories. Southeast Asia is an ideal location for this theoretical and comparative work because religion-state relations span from absolute, full-embrace (Brunei) to strategic, contested alliances (Myanmar, Indonesia) to separation and suspicion (Vietnam), and shades in between. Additionally, the region is home to many world religions (Islam, Buddhism, Christianity) in addition to local minority or non-normative traditions. These sessions develop discussions from a 2018 workshop with these participants, and we will make a framing document available before the conference to encourage wider engagement.
Kevin Fogg charts changing responses by indigenous, local religions to the labels the Indonesian state has applied to them over time. Rosa Castillo examines how Muslims in the Philippines have been categorized by colonial powers, the Philippine state, and the Moro liberation movement to highlight consequences for state-making and regional identity. Nurul Huda explores tacit complicity between Muslim couples and the state regarding covert polygamy across the Thai-Malaysian border to think about the nature of political, legal, and religious intervention. Matthew Walton unpacks controversies over Buddhist nationalism and non-state actors in Myanmar to probe the potentially divisive nexus of religio-political identities.