Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) plan to stage a mass protest rally at the National Police headquarters in South Jakarta on Monday (16/01). (B1 Photo/Danung Arifin)

Anthropologists Speak Out Against Identity Politics


DECEMBER 16, 2016

Jakarta. Anthropologists have declared a "state of emergency" over rising intolerance in Indonesia in recent years and called on all elements of society to unite against what they called the politicization of identity.

Religious and ethnic minorities have frequently become the targets of intolerant groups in the world's largest Muslim-majority country in recent years. This situation has repeatedly drawn fire from human rights activists.


However, recent developments have prompted the group of anthropologists to publicly take a stance by stating that "there's no better time than now to show that we are not silent in the face of the nation's problems."

"This state of emergency did not develop suddenly. It follows years of negligence," Yogyakarta-based anthropologist Yando Zakaria told the media in Jakarta on Friday (16/12).

"It is time to build cooperation among all in the community of anthropologists," he added.

Yando read out a joint statement saying: "Anthropology teaches that Indonesia's diversity is a social construct, which was built through our founding fathers' collective awareness. We are the inheritors [of that diversity], who are responsible for maintaining it."

Concerns over the fate of the country's religious and ethnic diversity have mounted in recent months, when Muslim hardliners started making blasphemy accusations against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is a Christian of Chinese ethnicity.

The case came in the lead-up to next year's Jakarta gubernatorial election, in which Ahok is seeking re-election.

"Identity has frequently been politicized lately. Certain groups have instead sharpened the differences by politicizing identity," Yando said. "We are calling on all members of the public to keep pushing efforts to maintain diversity through democratic means."