Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations)


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Compared to other forms of verbal exchange and encounter between preachers and their followers, social media put the preachers in a more vulnerable position. At the same time, their followers enjoy the quicker communication and a high degree of privacy and intimacy. Meeting an Islamic authority at home often means having to wait until the preacher is ready to receive his guest or until he has finished conversations with other guests who had arrived earlier.

Sending letters to magazines, which mainly employ psychologists but also religious experts, also involves a long wait time until the letter is chosen by the editors. Quick replies provide a sense of copresence, that is, that one shares not only the same virtual space but also a temporal realm with the preacher. Yet not only preachers have to develop a sense of time and timeliness to maintain relationships. To minimize the time lag of online exchanges, some followers closely watch the social media habits of their favorite preachers.

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Rita, for example, a mother of two children from Yogyakarta whom her husband recently divorced, likes to participate in various majelis taklim and thus knows a lot of preachers. Rita likes to send messages to prominent preachers from whom it is usually rather difficult to get a personal answer. Given her difficult situation after her divorce, she appreciates it greatly if she doesn't have to wait too long for a reply. Similar to Mrs. Wiwin, she is looking for emotional support. To attract the attention of her favorite preacher, she developed the following strategy:.

Usually I wait for a long time. But sometimes, rather than waiting, I like to raise topics that are dear to my heart early in the morning. I noted that the ustadz usually sends out his messages at the time of the morning prayer. Then I directly approach him with my problems.

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And he answers! Communication can be quick, if we do it like that. Rita, personal interview, August 6, ] Rita's account exemplifies, so to say, the other side of the coin of the subtle economy of time with which we are dealing here. The time of a prominent preacher is a particularly scarce resource, and Mrs.

Rita discovered a time slot in the morning when she can get access to this resource. In this reverse case, rather than preachers having to determine when to answer their followers, the followers try to detect when the preachers will reply.


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The question of time is obviously a question of power in Indonesia's Islamic preacher economy and serves as a major indicator of whether a preacher's popularity, that is, the might of his celebrity status if he enjoys such a status , can prevail over the consumer power of his followers, or vice versa. A preacher to whom Mrs.


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  8. Rita and the aforementioned Mrs. Wiwin referred when it came to belated replies was Ustadz Wijayanto, who commutes between Yogyakarta, his hometown where he still regularly appears in majelis taklim, and Jakarta, where he stars in religious TV shows. When I met Ustadz Wijayanto at his home in Yogyakarta, he told me that every day he receives at least messages, and on that particular day of our encounter, he had received around , adding that he does not reply to all and that he likes to delay his advice.


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    6. Ustadz Wijayanto showed me a message from a woman who asked him why women usually do not join their husbands in the mosque for the morning prayer. Instead, they pray alone at home, which she finds regrettable. He then explained:. I consider the priority. This example is actually not that urgent, but since I know the woman well—she once was my student at Gadjah Mada University 17 —I give precedence to her.

      Of course also in cases of urgency I prioritize messages, for example if people struggle with broken heart or broken home [English in original]…. But what concerns legal questions—Am I allowed to do this or not? Because I'm realistic, every day I'm teaching, training, shooting [English in original]. Almost every day I'm occupied with shootings at the TV station. Ustadz Wijayanto can afford to prioritize certain messages or to ignore others.

      Yet he does not arbitrarily do so. And followers he knows for many years, for example, from the time when he was not yet famous, can also expect to have their questions answered soon. The temporal hierarchy that is inherent in Ustadz Wijayanto's social media practice points to the larger subtle economy of time on which Indonesia's Islamic preacher economy is based, where emotional intimacy finds it expression in the temporal subtleties of online exchange.

      It is thus not a coincidence that Ustadz Wijayanto chooses to further invest in longtime relationships as well as in cases of emotional urgency. By doing this, he retains a practice—and to a certain extent also an image—that is associated with the majority of preachers who have not reached celebrity status and who personally care about their followers, while at the same time he necessarily disappoints followers who receive less or no attention, such as Mrs.

      Rita and Mrs. In fact, popular ustadz like Ustadz Wijayanto no longer depend on the social capital preachers can accumulate by maintaining personal relations with their followers via social media, although they might still engage with a limited number of them online. They operate in a realm of less personal communication channels, that is, in the realm of mass media, that generate a mass following, which can also be managed by social media like Facebook and Twitter, but not by running small WhatsApp and BBM groups, as many less prominent preachers do.

      My rereading of Bourdieu with a special focus on the temporal aspects of his theory of capital accumulation and conversion allows me to conclude that in Indonesia's Islamic preacher economy today, the conversion of cultural into economic capital, that is, the conversion of one's status as a preacher into an income, increasingly depends on how preachers can accumulate social capital through the use of social media. The labor that is necessary for doing this consists not only of the accumulated labor of the past, that is, the time the preacher has invested in studying Islam and in learning to preach, but also of the labor he is able to invest in the here and now to uphold relations with his followers.

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      The temporality of symbolic taking and giving, that is, the time difference between receiving a message and replying to it, can be crucial to gaining and upholding status. A preacher who copes well with the subtle economy of time of online exchanges can accelerate the conversion of his social and cultural capital into economic capital.

      The point this Bourdieuan analysis allows me to make is that the transformation Indonesia's Islamic preacher economy is currently undergoing rests not only on a pluralization of religious authority, though this is an important aspect, but also on a new principle of how religious authority is constructed, namely, on exchanges that demand particular temporalities—depending on the topic discussed and the emotions involved.

      Only the stars among the preachers, those regularly appearing on television and holding mass gatherings where they have become inaccessible for personal relationships, are no longer subject to this logic of exchange, which represents the logic of accumulation of social capital in today's social media age. But this does not mean, as this article also shows, that they have completely distanced themselves from personal online communication.

      At first glance, the reader might be surprised that this article relies on the work of Bourdieu to analyze these transformative developments in Indonesia's Islamic field.

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      The critique perhaps most frequently put forward against Bourdieu is that his concepts are difficult to apply in analyzing social change and that he puts too much emphasis on the dominating structures of society, ascribing too little room for subversive thought and action. In short, his work lacks concepts for examining phenomena like agency and resistance. The reading of Bourdieu that I present in this article clearly differs from this mainstream critique. One could even say that if this critique were correct, it would have been impossible to analyze something like Indonesia's Islamic preacher economy, a field that currently embodies transformation and change, by relying on Bourdieu.

      Using Bourdieu's economic metaphors to understand Indonesia's Islamic preacher economy does not automatically turn all actors in Indonesia's Islamic field into rationally calculating individuals in search of material and symbolic gain. The question whether Islamic preachers preach to become wealthy and celebrated, as some of them are indeed accused of, is missing the point. My rereading of Bourdieu's theory of forms of capital and their conversion thus emphasizes the temporal aspects involved.

      Temporalities are crucial for the processes of capital accumulation and conversion, and they are highly relevant for the social exchanges that are part of these processes. Unfortunately, Bourdieu's theorization of time that, in my reading, lies at the heart of his theory of forms of capital and their conversion remains largely unrecognized by critics like Urban. Yet this does not mean that a Bourdieuan analysis is fully applicable in each and every aspect to what this article is concerned with.

      In the context of Indonesia's Islamic preacher economy, the limits of a Bourdieuan approach do not lie in his theory of forms of capital and their conversion but in his conceptualization of the religious field as a realm where economic motives of actors or the economic consequences of their practice have to be concealed. In contemporary Indonesia, instead, where social media play a decisive role in the processes of capital conversion, this denial of religion's economic dimensions is not necessarily the case, and their nondenial sometimes becomes a subject of debate.

      As I have tried to show in this article, social media added new possibilities and temporalities of social exchange to Indonesia's Islamic field. The subtle economy of time, being characteristic of these exchanges, particularly affects Indonesia's Islamic preacher economy, which was already subject to different temporalities of capital accumulation and conversion before the rise of social media. Whereas famous preachers who appear on electronic media like television can easily convert their cultural capital into economic capital, the majority of less prominent preachers are busy with the subtlety of exchanges on social media that boost the preachers' social and cultural capital and eventually also allow the conversion of these forms of capital into economic capital.

      Whatever material interests the preachers might pursue or not pursue, the temporality of capital conversion, that is, how much time it takes to convert their preaching into an income, depends not only on their Islamic and psychological competence but also on mastering the subtle economy of time that governs online exchanges. To be clear, those preachers who remain offline, or who are not able to develop a sense of the temporal and emotional aspects involved, are the least equipped to obtain and maintain a position in this transforming field.

      In light of these developments, one can thus speak of a twofold temporal transformation of Indonesia's Islamic preacher economy, where temporalities of capital conversion and social exchange intersect. Field research in Indonesia for this article was mainly conducted in June, July, and August , in January and February , and in February and March , and online research has been carried out since the beginning of the project. In , fieldwork in Jakarta was greatly supported by Faried Saenong.

      Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations) Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations)
      Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations) Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations)
      Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations) Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations)
      Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations) Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations)
      Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations) Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations)
      Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations) Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations)
      Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations) Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations)
      Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations) Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations)
      Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations) Internet and Democracy in Indonesia (Asias Transformations)

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