Defining Religion from the Margins

Researcher: Herrmans, Isabell

Research Project: Defining Religion from the Margins

Region: Indonesia

One of the five principles of the Indonesian state ideology is belief in one supreme God. Religious freedom is supported but restricted to six officially recognized “world religions” (agama), which are defined by a scriptural monotheistic doctrine. These world religions are contrasted with a variety of local traditions and belief systems (adat, kepercayaan). My research explores what the norm-setting religious politics of the Indonesian nation-state means for Indonesia’s many minority religions. It does so through a study of the Kaharingan religion in the two provinces of East and Central Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo, and especially among the Luangan Dayak, a group of indigenous non-Muslim peoples. In Central Kalimantan, Kaharingan has become recognized as a “religion” as a result of affiliation with Balinese Hinduism, and subsequently known as Hindu Kaharingan. In East Kalimantan Kaharingan only has status as tradition, and its participants are consequently seen as primitive animists who lack national consciousness. In my research, I compare the situation in East and Central Kalimantan to learn about what work the “agama” concept accomplishes in practice. What does it include and what does it exclude? I study the statuses and motivations for the persistence of esoteric beliefs and traditions, and the ongoing process of rationalization of sanctioned and non-sanctioned religious practices and identities in the two provinces. 
Isabell Herrmans © Picture of Luangan shaman