Among National Elites and Local Muslims
Project leader: Martin Slama
The project explores the Hadhrami diaspora in contemporary Indonesia from two perspectives: First, it looks at elite Hadhramis who have risen to highest status in Indonesian society on the national and regional level and who are key figures in the diaspora communities. The focus lies on the high standing of Hadhramis, their constructions of authority, and their translocal elite networking. Investigation sites are Java – particularly Jakarta, where some Hadhramis have become part of the national elite – and Indonesian peripheral regions – like Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and the Moluccas, where Hadhramis have gained influence through their Islamic organisations, established aristocratic status, or recent political leadership. Secondly, the project studies Hadhrami’s involvement in the violent conflicts that broke out in parts of eastern Indonesia along religious lines after the fall of Suharto in 1998, highlighting their roles in conflict resolution. With its focus on elite Hadhramis and Hadhramis’ roles in conflicts the project advances into a research field that promises new insights concerning the reproduction of the diaspora, the divisions inside the diaspora and Hadhramis’ influence on the development of Islam in Indonesia.
The study of elite Hadhramis raises questions regarding correlations between Arab ethnicity, Islamic authority and their institutionalisation in Islamic organisations – both in the centre and eastern peripheries of Indonesia. It does especially do so in the context of conflicts and efforts of mediation and reconciliation, asking how these conflicts affected the status of prominent Hadhramis within the diaspora and in wider society. These investigations into the elite status of Hadhramis will be supported by the study of kinship, reflecting Hadhramis’ emphasis on endogamy and genealogies. This emphasis is strongest among those Hadhramis who consider themselves as descendants of the prophet Mohammed and thus claim a certain elite status because of their genealogy – a claim which is contested by other Hadhramis.