The Jews at the Frontier: Identity, Multiple Belonging and Indonesian Jewish history

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Date(s) - 22/06/2015
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Isaac Brown Room, Building 55 Monash Clayton


The MAI and the Centre of Southeast Asian Studies presents two talks: 

When? Monday, June 22, 4-6 pm.
Where? Isaac Brown Room, bld. 55 , Monash Clayton (next to bus loop)

 Leonard Chrysostomos Epafras- ACJC/Sophis Endeavour Fellow
The Jews at the Frontier: Identity, Multiple Belonging and Indonesian Jewish history

 It has been argued that in contrast to the thriving Jewish life in the West Indies, the Jewish stories of the Dutch East Indies have had a silent history. The present study is a preliminary exploration of the Jewish presence in the region from the pre-colonial era until the present day. The particular focus however is on the bulletin Het Joodsche Land (1926-1939), “The Jewish Land” published by Keren Hayesod, the Zionist fundraising organization. In this presentation it is argued that the Jewish identity in Indonesia has been constantly contested, and that Indonesia’s Jews experienced a multiplicity of belonging. In the late colonial period Keren Hayesod attempted to singularize it into the Zionist imagery of Jewish identity, in connection with the establishment of Jewish homeland. But the dynamic of Jewish lives in the period was not necessarily in line with Zionism expectation.

Leonard Chrysostomos Epafras is a core doctoral faculty and researcher at the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS), Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He is presently an Endeavour Fellow at the School of Philosophical, Historical, and International Studies (SoPHIS), Monash University, in which he explores the Jewish history in the Indonesian Dutch colonial period with particular focus on the bulletin Het Joodsche Land (1926-1939). His areas of studies are including Inter-religious interaction, Jewish-Muslim interaction in history, and Digital Humanities.

Dr. Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied
Reorienting Sufism: Hamka and Islamic Mysticism in the Malay World

Sufism has shaped the history and social lives of the Malays – one of the largest Muslim populations in the world today – for many centuries. But in recent decades, reformist and modernist forces have challenged the role of Sufism as a pivotal aspect of Malay-Muslim life in their pursuit to purify Islam from what they perceived as external influences that have crept into the age-old faith. This has given rise to polarizations within the local Malay societies. This article examines the intellectual interventions and contributions of a prominent Indonesian scholar and religious reformer, Haji Abdul Malik bin Abdul Karim Amrullah (1908-1981), popularly known as “Hamka,” amidst the debates over the place of Sufism in the Malay World. I show how Hamka sought to reorient Sufism in the Malay World by offering fresh interpretations of the origins, parameters, and purposes of Sufism. In doing so, Hamka had taken a threshold position (dihliz) – a concept drawn from Ebrahim Moosa’s influential study of Imam Al-Ghazali – that mediates between the extreme positions of Sufis and anti-Sufis.

Dr. Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied  (PhD SOAS, London) is an associate professor at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore. He is the author and editor of several books, among the recent ones are Colonialism Violence and Muslims in Southeast Asia: The Maria Hertogh Controversy and its Aftermath (London: Routledge, 2009) and Radicals: Resistance and Protest in Colonial Malaya (Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2015