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January 11, 2012

CFP: Militia, Religion and the Legitimation of Violence in Southeast Asia

Militia, Religion and the Legitimation of Violence in Southeast Asia 14-15 June 2012
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Deadline for the abstracts and bio data is 13 FEBRUARY 2012.

Workshop website: http://www.ari.nus.edu.sgevents_categorydetails.asp?categoryid=6&eventid=1245

Militia and other forms of local non-state security arrangements across Southeast Asia typically emerge in response to state weakness and political instability. In such circumstances, it is not unusual for religious groups to implement their own law enforcement and security arrangements. Given that the state seldom encompasses the entire field of justice and security provision, it is important to examine the internal dynamics of non-state security groups and how they assert authority, resolve conflicts and re-establish order. In some cases, when responding to the social and political vacuum caused by state weakness, militias actually contribute to volatility and violence. However, security groups can also play an important role in local communities, and promote a sense of security that the police or other state instrumentalities are unable to offer. For instance, on the Indonesian island of Lombok many communities over the past decade felt they had no alternative with the collapse of the authoritarian government but to rely on local militia when faced with a perceived crime wave. The militia gave them some degree of comfort; however, these same groups elsewhere on the island were causing havoc (even attacking police stations). It is within this complex and often ambiguous law enforcement environment across the Southeast Asian region, within which the state has either vacated their responsibilities or provides limited support, to which this workshop will engage.

This workshop focuses on militia in Southeast Asia that are affiliated with religious groups or utilise religious iconography. An important consideration is how militia express their religiosity and what are the consequences for individual personal piety of participation in these groups. Interconnected with this is how do these groups use religion to recruit members, justify their behaviour and what kinds of religious practice and discipline underpin their activities. This workshop seeks papers that draw upon rich empirical and ethnographic research about these security groups that operate outside the boundaries of direct state control. A significant issue underpinning this workshop is an examination of the effect of these non-state security groups whether they be in the Philippines, Thailand or Indonesia. An essential part of this assessment is to review whether religious groups are, in fact, alternatives to formal state authority, and if they are, what are the consequences of this governance arrangement. This workshop intends to consider these issues from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

The key questions guiding the papers to be presented at this workshop are:
1. What is the rationale and political motivations for the development of militia? Are militias connected to religious educational institutions? If so, how does this relationship affect these educational institutions and their theology?

2. How do members of these groups experience their participation in militia and how does it influence their sense of religiosity? What kinds of religious practice, bodily discipline and training are practiced within these groups?

3. Militia in many parts of Southeast Asia have been accused of criminal behaviour and human rights violations, as a consequence, how has religiosity been used by militia to recruit or justify their actions? Are there other sources of legitimation of violence in the region? (such as nationalism, ethnicity, etc). Why is it that some militia are violent while others maintain a relatively peaceful role within the community? Is there any difference between “religious” militia and other types of militia in Southeast Asia?

4. How does the existence of non-state militia affect local community perceptions of state authority?

Dr Jeremy Kingsley
Asia Research Institute
National University Singapore
469A, Tower Block, Bukit Timah Road, #10-01, Singapore 259770
65-6516 1283 (DID) :: 65-6779 1428 (Fax)

Posted by katemw at January 11, 2012 09:38 AM


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