Oratorical Innovation and Audience Heterogeneity in Islamic West Java
The Indonesian Islamic orators with the highest profiles are, in most cases, those whose preaching synergizes with national media and commercial interests. Academic writing has highlighted the contemporaneity of their cultural references and religious messages. But their high visibility obscures a general reality of oratorical mediation before heterogeneous Muslim audiences in Indonesia: preachers in all settings, not just those that index contemporaneity, achieve successful preaching outcomes by maintaining high awareness of their audience’s evolving cultural particularisms, and producing preaching performances that reflect that awareness. The article compares two preachers active in diverse settings. One made a career out of preaching in the emerging contexts of West Java’s bureaucracy, while the other continues to preach with success at celebratory events held in village settings. It is argued that both preachers have succeeded by responding to their audiences’ contemporary knowledge and cultural competencies. What distinguishes these two, however, is an authoritative disposition, commonly expressed by progressives, that interprets the festive, multivocal preaching that is characteristic of village celebrations as a sign of an anachronistic Islamic subject.
Volume & Issue:
Page range: 123-146
Cornell University Southeast Asia Program