Cosmopolitanism, Pluralism and Self-Orientalisation in the Modern Mystical World of Java

in Asian Journal of Social Science


At present, a great deal of the scholarly research on Indonesia focuses on the processes of Islamisation. This paper will discuss a phenomenon that seems to point in a different direction, namely the contemporary reconfiguration of dukun/spiritual experts called paranormal. These mystics indicate a peculiar form of pluralism. They are an assemblage of tradition and modernity, locality and translocality, religion and mysticism, spirituality and business, and global esotericism and popular psychology. Most of them belong to the urban middle class, are highly professional, and make extensive use of modern mass media to advertise their supernatural skills. Yet, how do they position themselves in Indonesian and global cultural contexts? This paper identifies the ongoing ambivalence between cosmopolitan ideas and their rupture in polarising, orientalist, and occidentalist imaginaries. Finally, a new understanding of cosmopolitanism is suggested that expands the reference beyond the world of humans by also including a plurality of supernatural powers.

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