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Solidarity and Polarisation: Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces in SE Asia

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SEAC Seminar Series: Solidarity and Polarization: Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces in Southeast Asia

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On 24th March 2021, SEAC invites two early career researchers working on political economy and religious politics in the region to present their latest research projects under the theme "Solidarity and Polarization: Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces in Southeast Asia". This event will be chaired by SEAC Associate Prof. John Sidel.

Talk abstracts

Ethnoreligious Otherings and Passionate Conflicts in Southeast Asia (Dr Michael Intal Magcamit)

How does a once familiar and benign ethnoreligious community become a stranger and a threat? This article examines the underlying causal mechanisms driving rival ethnoreligious factions within pluralistic polities to frame each other as threats to their relative security, power, and status. Drawing on complementary theories from critical security, religious, and nationalism studies, I develop a framework that captures and explains the processes and dynamics through which threatening conceptions and narratives about the ethnoreligious others are constructed, socialized, and legitimized over time. To theoretically probe and empirically demonstrate the utility of this framework, I examine how the collective imagined insecurities of rival ethnoreligious communities in Southeast Asia have crystallized into tangible security threats using the interpretive process tracing method. Evidences produced from my theoretical and empirical analyses using the novel qualitative data I gathered from my field research in Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines, reveal that this chauvinistic, zero-sum phenomenon proceeds via a three-phase ethnoreligious othering causal mechanism comprised of emotional cultivation of ethnoreligious nationalism, symbolic securitization of othered ethnoreligious groups, and perceptual sacralization of indivisible ethnoreligious identities and homelands.

“All of God’s creations possess the right to freedom:” Muslim-Marxist Cooperation During the Indonesian Revolution, 1945–50 (Dr Hongxuan Lin)

The Indonesian Revolution (1945–50) was a period of significant hardship and uncertainty for the nascent Indonesian republic and its putative citizens. Victory over the better-armed and better-organized Dutch was frustratingly elusive, while repeated attempts to broker a diplomatic compromise failed miserably. In this trying context, would-be Indonesians – divided by faith, ethnicity, and regional identities – invoked discourses of republican unity which drew on Islamic conceptions of solidarity as well as Marxist critiques of Capital and Empire. In doing so, they tapped a decades-old tradition of resistance in which Muslims and Marxists had drawn inspiration from each other in articulating resistance to the colonial state. With a particular focus on the newspapers and organizations associated with labour activists Sajuti Melik and S.K. Trimurti, this talk explores the various ways in which Muslims and Marxists justified cooperation and expressed solidarity with each other during the revolution. It will show how Islamic identity and Marxist ideas could comfortably coexist, especially in the context of revolutionary exigency.

Speakers and Chair biographies

  • Dr Michael Magcamit is currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow in the School of Politics & International Relations at Queen Mary University of London. His research focuses on the various state and human security issues affecting Southeast Asia including ethnoreligious conflicts, free trade agreements, and populist foreign policies.
  • Dr Hongxuan Lin is a postdoctoral fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore for 2021. He is also a member of the LSE SEAC Early Career Research network. He earned his PhD in History from the University of Washington in 2020, with a dissertation titled “Ummah Yet Proletariat: Islam and Marxism in the Netherlands East Indies and Indonesia, 1915–1959.” His research interests also include confluences of Islam and Marxism in South Asia and Malaya/Malaysia. He will be a visiting fellow at the LSE SEAC in 2022, where he will work on the circulation of progressive Islamic ideas across the Indian Ocean.
  • Prof. John Sidel is the Sir Patrick Gillam Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Professor Sidel received his BA and MA from Yale University and his PhD from Cornell University. He is the author of Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines (1999), Philippine Politics and Society in the Twentieth Century: Colonial Legacies, Postcolonial Trajectories (2000), Riots, Pogroms, Jihad: Religious Violence in Indonesia (2006), The Islamist Threat in Southeast Asia: A Reassessment (2007), Thinking and Working Politically in Development: Coalitions for Change in the Philippines (2020, with Jaime Faustino) and a forthcoming book Republicanism, Communism, Islam: Cosmopolitan Origins of Revolution in Southeast Asia.

Banner image is from Flick by Joaquim Baeta (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

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