The political downfall of the Suharto’s “New Order” in Indonesia (1998) opened the way for democracy, human rights and for the participation of political Islam previously banned under the authoritarian rule of the regime. Public piety gained more and more attention from scholars studying women’s condition through the lenses of the compatibility thesis. “East” vs. “West”, “oppressed” vs. “liberated”, “backward” vs. “modern”, all dichotomies blurring the complexities of a diverse nation in transition. Female Indonesian ulema (Muslim clerics) developed since the 1990s an alternative Islamic gender theology to address gender issues in a social reformist perspective. This presentation will question how the widespread of a "humanist" and feminist reading of the sacred texts by female ulema transcends universalist and relativists claims. Through an analysis of the narratives and counternarratives disseminated by female ulema in social and political sphere, we will question their quest for recognition.
Samia Kotele is a Phd Student in ENS de Lyon.She is currently working on the history of female ulema in Indonesia since the XIXth century. Focusing on their quest for religious authority and their production of a new gender theology, her work is based on archives and ethnographic fieldworks.