The Pain of Being Hybrid: Catholic Writers and Political Islam in Postcolonial Indonesia

In: International Journal of Asian Christianity
Albertus Bagus Laksana Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia,

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Informed by postcolonial theories and approaches, and based on the works of three Indonesian Catholic writers, this essay looks at the ways in which these writers address the question of identity. They propose the notion of hybrid identity where the identity of the nation is built upon different layers of racial, ethnic, and religious belongings, and loyalties to local tradition and aspirations for modernity. While this notion of identity is inspired by the framework of “catholicity”, it is also “postcolonial” for a number of reasons. First, its formation betrays traces of colonial conditions and negotiations of power. Second, it reflects the subject position of these writers as Indonesian natives who embraced a religion that has complex ties to European colonialism and problematic relations with Islam. Third, it criticizes the post-colonial state and society, which perpetuate many of the ills of the colonial political system, including racism and the abuse of power. Their discourse also reveals the pain of being hybrid, mainly in their inability to appropriately tackle the question of political Islam. The recent political upheaval reveals the need for more creative engagement with political Islam in order for this hybrid identity to work.

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