Despite the many benefits of democracy, some scholars believe that introducing elections in ethnically divided states can lead to the politicization of identity and to ethnic conflict. Yet few scholars have explored what compels politicians to mobilize around identity in the first place. In search of an answer, Jeremy Menchik and George Washington University doctoral student Colm Fox compiled the only known dataset of campaign advertisements—over 5,000 political banners, posters, and stickers—across hundreds of electoral districts in the world’s largest Muslim-majority democracy, Indonesia. They coded these advertisements for the use of religious, ethnic, nationalist, party, and regional symbols in order to then explain their variation. Their findings shed light on how “politics works” in a new Muslim democracy and suggest that parties, including Islamists, are strategic about their use of identity appeals. Menchik will illustrate this and other findings with ample recourse to visual images.
Dr. Jeremy Menchik is a 2011–12 Shorenstein Fellow. His PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison drew on two years of field research to explain variations in religious and political tolerance in Indonesia during the twentieth century. He has been a Luce Scholar at Columbia University and a visiting fellow at the State Islamic University Syarif Hidayatullah, Jakarta. He is working on a book manuscript based on his dissertation: Tolerance Without Liberalism: Islamic Institutions in Twentieth Century Indonesia.
Co-sponsored with the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, Stanford University.