Universiteit Leiden

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Nor Ismah

PhD candidate

N. Ismah MA
+31 71 527 4976

PhD research

Flourishing Female Ulama: Practices, Authorities, and Institutions in Indonesia

Supervisors:  en dr. N.J.G. Kaptein en dr. David Kloos (KITLV)

My PhD research studies, first, the exemplar of female ulama (Muslim clerics) in Indonesia, including the practices, major barriers to becoming an ulama, negotiations, authorities, and the education institutions that provide women with the capacity for development; second, the response of male ulama to female leadership and religious authority and the challenge of religious institutions where the roles of female ulama are restricted; third, the strategies that will allow female ulama to play roles and gain religious authority in formulating Islamic fatwa in Indonesia.



In 2002 I finished my bachelor from the State University for Islamic Studies (UIN) Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta Indonesia majoring Arabic Language and Literature. I obtained MA in Southeast Asian Studies from University of Hawaii at Manoa USA in 2012.


I have been working as creative writing trainer at Matapena Community since 2006. From 2013—2015 I served as the writer and editor in some institutions and NGOs in Indonesia including Search for Common Ground Indonesia as a writer of success story book (2013) and blog content and design trainer for peace building initiative (2014), and Schools System and Quality—the Australia’s Education Partnership with Indonesia (SSQ-AEPI) as a writer and editor of the unit of learning materials for Indonesian school principals (2013—2015). In 2015, I joined the Institute of Southeast Asian Islam UIN Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta as researcher.



  • Santri and Documentary Movies: Promoting Moderate Understanding of Islam”, presented in the International Conference on Southeast Asian Islam: Promoting Moderate Understanding of Islam, UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta, 8-9 October 2015.

  • “Inflaming War through the Words: The Contestation on ‘the Other’ and the Concept of Tolerance-Intolerance between Forum Lingkar Pena and Komunitas Matapena”, presented in the International Conference on Growing Religious Intolerance: Outlook, Challenges and Future Trajectory of Indonesian Religious Life , a joint project of Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and the Graduate School of UIN Sunan Kalijaga, 29 September-1 October 2015.

  • “Destabilizing Male Domination: Building Community-Based Authority of Indonesian Female Ulama”, presented in the KITLV workshop on Female Islamic Authority in Comparative Perspective: Exemplars, Institutions, Practices, Leiden, 8-9 January 2015

  • “The Regeneration of Indonesian Female Ulama: Strategies and Best Practices”, presented in the 7th Al-Jamiah Forum at UIN Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta, 28-30 November 2014.

  • “Between Hadrah, Nasyid, and Pop Music: Negotiating Cultural Identity of Santri in Yogyakarta Indonesia”, presented in the Participatory Fun Culture Workshop, KITLV Jakarta, 10-11 January 2013.

  •  “Young Women Writers from the Pesantren Tradition: Self Initiative, Learning Environment, and the Education System”, presented in the Annual International Conference on Islam and Society, Surabaya East Java, 5-8 November 2012.



" The New Generation of Women Writers from the Pesantren Tradition in Indonesia”, republication in Yvonne Michalik and Melani Budianta (ed.) Indonesian Women Writers. Berlin: Regiospectra (2015).

“Ratna Ulfatul Fuadiyah: Mengedepankan Teladan”, in Abi S. Nugroho and Hamzah Sahal (ed.), Mendidik Tanpa Pamrih Kisah para Pejuang Pendidikan Islam. Jakarta: Kementerian Agama RI (2015).

Salam from Pesantren: Santri’s Experience in Managing Media for Peace. Jakarta: Search for Common Ground Indonesia (2014).

Training Jurnalistik Meliput Reformasi Birokrasi, Panduan untuk Fasilitator. Jakarta: MSI (2014).

“Young Women Writers from the Pesantren Tradition: Self Initiative, Learning Environment, and the Education System”, Journal of Indonesian Islam, volume 06, no.02, December (2012).

"The New Generation of Women Writers from the Pesantren Tradition in Indonesia", Exploration journal, volume 11 no.1, Asian Studies Department, University of Hawaii at Manoa (2011).

Ja’a Jutek: a Novel . Yogyakarta: Matapena (2007).

Jerawat Santri: a Novel . Yogyakarta: Matapena (2006).



I got a scholarship from the International Fellowship Program of Ford Foundation and East West Center to support my masters program (2010—2012). While my PhD study is fully sponsored by the Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education of Ministry of Finance of Republic Indonesia (2016 -2020).

PhD candidate

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SAS Indonesie

Work address

Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 3
2311 BZ Leiden
Room number 1.11a


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