Arie Setyaningrum Pamungkas
PhD Candidate
Humboldt University of Berlin

Department of Southeast Asian Studies, Institute for Asian and African Studies
Humboldt University of Berlin

Arie Setyaningrum Pamungkas is a PhD Candidate at the Departement of Southeast Asian Studies, Institute for Asian and African Studies, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany. She is also a lecturer at the Department of Sociology, and Media and Cultural Studies at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. She receives a scholarship from the Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies, Free University Berlin, to support her PhD study.

"Dakwah Media in Post Suharto Indonesia: From Politics of Identity to Popular Culture (the case of Ummi)"

The most apparent form of Islamic expression in post-Suharto Indonesia is the increasing popularity of Islamic media - especially those media that emphasize the importance of dakwah. Freed from the past constraints of state censorship after press freedom was established by president B.J Habibie in 1999, all segments of the Indonesian media - including Islamic media - have become increasingly diversified. In this context of increasing diversification, I use the term ‘dakwah media’ to go beyond the labeling of a particular strand of media as ‘Islamic’, and emphasize the ‘constructing’ of dakwah, that is, proselytization.

My PhD project analyzes the transformation of dakwah media in Indonesia, from ideological pamphlets circulated by the ‘tarbiyah movement’ - a social and political movement of Indonesian Muslim students that was especially active during the Suharto era – to the dakwah media’s current mass popularization of the tarbiyah (ikhwani) ideology as a new lifestyle. In Arabic, tarbiyah literally means ‘education’. The dakwah method introduced by the tarbiyah movement refers to the ‘tarbiyah method’ of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwanul Muslimin), a method that employs informal mentoring activities, including religious lessons in circles called ‘halaqoh’, in an attempt to prepare Muslim youth to the call for ka’afah Islam (total islam). Under Suharto, dakwah media have helped to disseminate ikhwani thoughts among the adherents of the tarbiyah movement; yet, fifteen years onwards, only few of these media survived. Ummi, the magazine that forms the main object of my analysis, is one of them. At first an underground magazine circulated among dakwah activists, it has now become publicly accessible anywhere in Indonesia, and its readership has expanded exponentially. Focusing on a multi-layered analysis, I ask how such transformations have affected the contents of the magazine – from debating ideological positions to providing guidance for living virtuous lives, to advertising alternatives for lifestyle and consumption, including “religious self-help”. How has Ummi been transformed in the post-Suharto era, and in the wake of the increasing politicization of religion after September 11 and the Bali Bombings of 2002? What are the implications of such transformations on Ummi’s – essentially female – readership? How do readers as active agents shape the contents of a magazine like Ummi? It is these and related questions that this research seeks to address.

The PhD research is supervised by Prof. Vincent Houben (Institute for Asian and African Studies, Humboldt University of Berlin), and co-supervised by Prof. Michael Feener (Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore).