Nation-State-izing Religion: Bureaucratic Islam in Southeast Asia



Dominik Müller, Visiting Fellow, Islamic Legal Studies Program on Law and Social Change, Harvard University

Date and Time

April 10, 2018 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM



Open to the public.

RSVP required by 5PM April 09.


Philippines Conference Room
Encina Hall, 3rd Floor
616 Serra Street, Stanford, CA 94305

Co-sponsored by the Southeast Asia Program and the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies

Transnational Islam lacks the centralized leadership and institutions associated with Catholicism. Yet hierarchical and authoritative bodies do make decisions regarding Islam in various contemporary settings, including within the institutional frameworks of states. What happens when Muslim faith and practice are adapted to the terms and procedures of bureaucracy and the modern nation-state?

Dr. Müller will present an original conceptual framework for studying the bureaucratization of Islam. He will apply it to five Southeast Asian cases—Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore. State bureaucracies in these countries vary widely,
but generally they aim to influence or control trends and meanings in local Islamic discourse. Drawing on current debates in the anthropology of the state, with particular reference to Brunei and Singapore, Müller will offer an original analytic framework to explain similarities and differences in bureaucratized Islam in Southeast Asia. Possible implications beyond the region will also be explored.

Dominik Müller heads the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology’s Research Group on the Bureaucratization of Islam and Its Socio-Legal Dimensions in Southeast Asia. He is also a non-resident fellow in the Centre for Asian Legal Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Prior positions include visitorships at NUS (2016), the University of Oxford (2015), the University of Brunei Darussalam (2014), and Stanford University (APARC, 2013).  His doctorate in anthropology is from Goethe University Frankfurt (2012).His latest publication is an article on “Hybrid Pathways to Orthodoxy” in Brunei in the April-May 2018 Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, a special issue on bureaucratized Islam that he also guest-edited.


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