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LUCIS Annual Conference | Keynote Lecture | Digital Duplicity: Piety, Scandal, and the (Un)making of Islamism in Indonesia

  • James Hoesterey
Thursday 14 December 2017
Registration not compulsory, but appreciated
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

LUCIS is pleased to announce keynote speaker James Hoesterey from Emory University, who will present a lecture on visual culture and Islamism in Indonesia . This lecture is part of the 8th LUCIS annual conference, which will take place in Leiden. This year's theme is “Islamic Visualities and In/Visibilities: Reimagining Public Citizenship?”

Keynote Lecture | Digital Duplicity: Piety, Scandal, and the (Un)making of Islamism in Indonesia

What sort of visual theory helps us to understand the making and unmaking of Islamism? In his recent provocative essay, Christopher Pinney argues passionately that “visual theory is in crisis, a crisis with revivifying potential, because we have rediscovered the potential of the visual to create crisis” (2017: 73). Pinney urges scholars to move beyond approaches that emphasize discipline and regimes of vision, and instead champions a return to the “event” of photography in order to “reawaken its revolutionary potential.” In this paper, James Hoestery juxtaposes Pinney’s account of the problem (and solution) of visual theory, with the questions that animate this workshop’s emphasis on image-making: “What motivations, opportunities, and risks are implicated in the practice of image-making? What kinds of creative labour, negotiations, contestations, and politics inform the creation of religious images?”.

To address these questions, James Hoesterey considers the role of visual culture in the rise, and perhaps demise, of Habib Rizieq Shihab, Indonesia’s (in)famous hardliner leader of the “Islamic Defenders Front” (FPI). In 2006 Shihab’s public protest against Playboy magazine played a part in the political theatrics that led to Indonesia’s Anti-Pornography Law of 2008. A decade later, Shihab now finds himself the target of this same law after a sexually explicit Whatsapp screenshot, sent to his alleged mistress, went viral and memes making fun of Shihab circulated widely in social media. In this essay, James Hoesterey describes a generation of loosely-affiliated networks of online activists who deployed humor, satire, disgust, and outrage as part of broader efforts to unmask what they perceive as the moral vacuity, insincerity, and duplicity of Islamist projects.

In some respects, this case study of the strategic unmaking of an Islamist “hypocrites” appears to answer Pinney’s call for the revolutionary potential of visual critique. On the other hand, this case study – in which some online activists rejoice in the potential arrest of an Islamist hardliner while others bemoan the intrusion of the state into citizens’ online lives -- also suggests that such visions of visual critique can also be understood in less celebratory terms, especially as they also shed light on moral ambivalence, religious authenticity, and political compromise.

About the speaker

Jim Hoesterey, a cultural anthropologist by training, is Assistant Professor of Islamic studies at Emory University, and also serves as associate faculty in the departments of Anthropology and Film & Media Studies. Hoesterey’s research focuses broadly on Islam, media, and politics. His first book Rebranding Islam: Piety, Prosperity, and a Self-help Guru (Stanford Press: 2016) chronicles the rise and fall of one of the world’s most famous Muslim televangelists. Hoesterey has also worked on several documentary films broadcast worldwide on Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and the BBC. Hoesterey’s current book project about Islam, diplomacy, and soft power examines how, in the wake of 9/11 and the Arab Spring, Indonesia’s foreign ministry promotes the country as the model example of “moderate Islam.” Hoesterey serves as board member for the Commission for Visual Anthropology (CVA) and as Secretary for the American Institute for Indonesian Studies (AIFIS).


If you would like to attend this lecture, or any other part of the conference, please send an email to lucis@hum.leidenuniv.nl with your name and the dates you would like to attend.

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