It is often said that Indonesian Islam can lay claim to a special tradition of tolerance and syncretism unparalleled in the Muslim world. In this talk, based on his latest book, "The Makings of Indonesian Islam", Dr. Michael Laffan suggests that such a narrative is the result of a specific period of interaction between Dutch colonial scholarship and Islamic reformist scholarship during the late nineteenth-century. Such an engagement also includes confrontation between the European colonial power and various Sufi orders in Indonesia. Dr. Laffan's motivation for his research stems from his "dissatisfaction or frustration whenever the topic of Indonesian Islam comes up. Because whenever people say 'Indonesian Islam' it conjures up [images and ideas] of a more ironic Islam [and] of a more tolerant Islam." He also argues the story of Indonesian Islam is not dominated by one narrative and its ending is not yet determined.

Michael Laffan is an Assistant Professor at Princeton University’s Department of History. He teaches on Southeast Asia and is interested in the intersections of colonialism and Islamic discourse in the region across the 19th and 20th centuries.

Held as part of the Spring 2010 Lecture Series.
Recorded on March 31, 2010.

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