Islamization and Identity in Indonesia: The Case of Arabic Names in Java
Kuipers, Joel C.; Askuri
A considerable amount of scholarly attention has rightly been devoted to the rise of normative forms of Islamic practice in Indonesia, and to the consequent decline of hybrid, syncretic forms of Islam for which Indonesia, and Java in particular, was once renowned. This article shows that syncretic identities—as expressed in the bestowal of Arabic and other names—appear to be growing at a surprisingly rapid rate. Drawing on a dataset of over three million names from three selected Java regencies, the authors show, with the aid of many graphs, that a dominant trend over the last century is a strong tendency toward Arabization of names, a finding that is consistent with an Islamization argument. However, the largest portion of Arabized names, and the fastest growing name types overall, are ones that are a three- or four-part mix of Arabic and other Javanese, Indonesian, and Western names. The authors discuss the surprising rise of such hybridized names in the context of the political and cultural changes in Java over the last century, as well as even longer-term tendencies toward the mixing and hybridizing of identities in an archipelagic environment.
Volume & Issue:
Page range: 25-49
Cornell University Southeast Asia Program