Caged in on the OutsideMoral Subjectivity, Selfhood, and Islam in Minangkabau, Indonesia

Caged in on the OutsideMoral Subjectivity, Selfhood, and Islam in Minangkabau, Indonesia

Gregory M. Simon

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824838300

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract

The moral practices and concepts that circulate in Minangkabau society in West Sumatra, Indonesia articulate and help manage tensions between conflicting values and conflicting experiences of selfhood, particularly the tension between social integration and individual autonomy. The book examines these tensions ethnographically in multiple arenas: the structure of the city of Bukittinggi and its economic life, the nature of Minangkabau ethnic identity, the etiquette of everyday interactions, conceptions of the self and its boundaries, hidden spaces of personal identity, and engagements with Islamic rituals and moral conceptions. Applying the lessons of the Minangkabau case more broadly to debates on moral life and subjectivity makes the case that a deep understanding of moral conceptions and practices, including those of Islam, can never be reached simply by delineating their abstract logics or outlining the public messages they send. Instead, we must examine the subtle, sometimes intentionally obscured meanings these conceptions and practices have for the people who live them. Whether in the context of suffering or flourishing, moral subjectivity always confronts the challenge of responding to and managing the enduring tensions of human selves, which necessarily entail bodily, relational, and reflective dimensions.