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Islamizing Java? Religion and Politics in Rural East Java

  • Robert W. Hefner

Extract

Scholarly discussion of Javanese society has consistently linked variation in Islamic orthodoxy to differences of socioeconomic class, political behavior, and social conflict. In the most widely known sociological formula, Clifford Geertz distinguished three varieties of Javanese Islam and correlated each with a particular social class. Abangan, or Javanist Muslim, tradition was described as a syncretic blend of animist, Hindu-Buddhist, and Islamic elements that was predominant among the mass of rural Javanese. Santri tradition was identified as a more orthodox variant of Islam, especially widespread among merchants and wealthier peasants. Finally, priyayi tradition was identified as an elite heritage strongly influenced by the Hindu-Buddhist values of earlier Javanese courts and linked to Java's traditional gentry and the administrative bureaucracy that replaced it in the modern era (Geertz 1956; Geertz 1960:5–6).

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