Performing piety in public: Ethnic politics and interreligious harmony in Indonesia

Emily Zoe Hertzman


In this article, I focus on the reentry of Chinese Indonesians into both politics and public religious life in Indonesia in the post-Suharto era. I argue that while entry into local politics has led to new forms of interethnic and interreligious competition, public displays of piety and religiosity among Chinese religion practitioners resonate with the religiosity of others and comply with the need for religiosity outlined in Indonesian state ideology. Public Chinese religion has become an arena of social life in which systems of morality, based in different religious traditions, become a platform to create commensurability across ethnic and religious boundaries. Performances of religiosity on the part of Chinese Indonesian politicians can be seen as a pedagogical process of demonstrating the morally and socially appropriate behavior for Chinese Indonesian political leaders in the diverse, highly religious, and Muslim-majority Indonesian context.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/729896