Research

  • Dr Julian Millie is a senior lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. Commencing in February of 2014, he will start a four-year research project under the Australian Research Council’s Future Fellowship program. The project responds to two realities: first, the popularity of oratory as a form of Islamic engagement for Indonesian Muslims, and second, the rising worry amongst Indonesians that divisions between Muslim groups are becoming wider and more bitterly contested. What kind of senses of belonging and community are constructed and shared at preaching events? The project will include researchers from other universities, especially Professors Asep Saepul Muhtadi (Media and Communications) and Dadang Kahmad (Sociology), both of whom are based at Bandung’s Sunan Gunung Djati State Islamic University.

    After completing an MA in Indonesian language and literature at Monash, he obtained his PhD at Leiden University (the Netherlands). Julian’s research has focussed on Islamic practice and observance in Indonesia, especially on ritual performance and religious communication. His research seeks wider meanings for these against changing Indonesian religious and social backgrounds.

    Julian’s early study about Islamic society of Indonesia was conducted in the field of literature. His MA, supervised by Stuart Robson at Monash University, was a philological/literary study of popular Malay Islamic romance of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Julian maintains his interest in this field by writing regular book reviews of current research on the regional writing traditions of maritime Southeast Asia.

    His PhD project was a natural extension of his work on Islamic textuality, but relocated Julian’s research into the disciplinary field of anthropology. That project, supervised by Henk Maier and Nico Kaptein at Leiden University, searched for the ways in which Islamic textual traditions underpin situated ritual practice amongst West Javanese Muslims. In 2002-2003, he made a field study in Bandung, West Java of a popular ritual in which Muslims seek intercession to Abdul Qadir Al-Jaelani, a saint buried in Baghdad who is highly regarded as an intercessor by Muslims around the world. Julian was able to establish how hagiographic texts are given meaning in locally-specific ritual traditions. It also contrasted village-based conventions of intercession-seeking with those practiced within the national structures of the Qadiriyyah/Naqsyabandiyyah sufi order.

    In more recent fieldwork, conducted in stages between 2007 and 2011, Julian accompanied Islamic orators as they fulfilled their speaking obligations for Muslim audiences, once again in West Java. This research was dedicated to establishing the characteristics that have made Islamic oratory such a popular form of Islamic participation for Indonesian Muslims, and to exploring the (negative) discourses by which progressives represent listening as an anachronistic mediatory form.

    Julian’s successive research projects in West Java have enabled him to develop close relationships with important scholars in Bandung such as Professors Dadang Kahmad and Asep Saepul Muhtadi and Mr Agus Ahmad Safei from(UIN Sunan Gunung Djati), Hawe Setiawan (UNPAS/ITB), Linda Hindasah (Malang), Dede Syarif (UGM), and Iwa Lukmana, Ruhalia and Professor Amin Aziz from UPI and others. These relationships have been an important element of Julian’s recent research practice.

    There is no single theoretical theme that motivates Julian’s work. Rather, he prefers to theorise his work in response to empirical realities he encounters in the field. His theorisations have been strongly shaped by his focus on Islamic observance taking place in the routines of daily life, a focus which has frequently brought him into contact with localised Islamic conventions and understandings. Julian’s publications have in most cases attempted to analyse religious observances and communication as navigations between diverse identifications with local, national and supra-national lineages and authorities. In order to do so, he has developed a wide range of linguistic competencies in Indonesian, Sundanese and Arabic. Furthermore, his experience in researching quotidian religious practice has enabled him to develop insights into the distinct gendering of religious practice in Indonesian societies, a theme he has explored in a number of papers.

    Julian has published many articles in journals and edited collections, and reviews articles for journals in the fields of anthropology and Indonesian studies. He has received research grants from the Australian Research Council, and is active in professional activities: he was a member of the editorial board of the magazine Inside Indonesia, for which he has written many articles, and is the secretary of the Asian Studies Association of Australia thesis prize committee.

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