The Muslim Researcher Reflections on Insider/ Outsider Research in Indonesia (Peniliti Muslim Refleksi Penilitian Insider dan Outsider di Indonesia)


  • Claudia Seise Assistant Professor, Department of Fundamental and Inter-Disciplinary Studies, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge & Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia.



The article takes up the topic of religious insider and outsider research and looks especially at the issue of advantages and disadvantages of being a religious insider doing qualitative research in religious communities similar to one’s own. As a case study serves my personal experience of being a convert Muslim woman doing research among Islamic communities in Indonesia. During research, I came to understand that the plurality of different Islamic practices found in Indonesia makes it difficult to become a ’true’ and ‘complete‘ insider to this variety of Islamic teachings and practices. My main argument is that, at least in the Indonesian context, it is impossible to be a complete religious insider to each aspect of the plurality of Islamic practices despite being an insider to Islam, a Muslim. This in turn leads me to discuss advantages and disadvanatges of being a religious insider.

Keywords: Muslim Researcher, Research Methodology, Research in Indonesia, Qualitative Research, Southeast Asia, Islam.


Artikel ini membicarakan tema tentang peniliti insider atau outsider dengan fokus peniliti yang beragama. Artikel ini khususnya menganalisiskan manfaat dan mudarat menjadi seorang insider yang mempunyai agama yang sama dengan orang yang ditiliti. Sebagai contoh saya memandang kasus personil saya sendiri sebagai peniliti Muslim mualaf yang melakukan penilitian diantara komunitas-komunitas Muslim di Indonesia. Melalui penilitian saya, saya memahami bahwa pluralitas praktek orang Muslim di Indonesia membuat sulit untuk menjadi seorang insider yang sebenarnya untuk semua keanekaragaman pemahaman Islam yang ada di Indonesia. Argumen utama saya adalah bahwa dalam kontex Indonesia, tidak mungkin untuk menjadi insider religi yang sebenarnya untuk seluruh aspek-aspek pluralitas Islam. Walaupun menjadi seorang Muslim sekalipun. Pemahaman tersebut membawa saya untuk membicarakan manfaat dan mudarat menjadi seorang insider agama.

Kata Kunci: Peniliti Muslim, Metodologi Penilitian, Penilitian di Indonesia, Qualitative Research, Asia Tenggara, Islam.



Ahmed, Akbar S. "Defining Islamic Anthropology." Anthropology Today 65 (1984): 1-4.
Ahmed, Akbar S. Toward Islamic Anthropology: Definition, Dogma, and Directions. Ann Arbor: New Era Publications, 1986.
Ali, Muhamad. "Categorizing Muslims in Postcolonial Indonesia." Moussons 11 (2007): 33-62.
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. Revised Edition ed. Lon-don, New York: Verso, 2006 (1983).
Azra, Azyumardi. The Origins of Islamic Reformism in Southeast Asia Networks of Malay-Indonesian and Middle Eastern ’Ulamā’ in the Sev-enteenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Asian Studies Assoc. of Australia in assoc. with Allen & Unwin, 2004. Dissertation (1992).
Ballamingie, Patricia. "The Vulnerable Researcher: Some Unanticipated Challenges of Doctoral Fieldwork." The Qualitative Report 16, no. 3 (2011): 711-29.
Bamu, Beryl Ndongwa, Elisabeth De Schauwer, and Geert Van Hove. "I Can't Say I Wasn't Anticipating It, but I Didn't See It Coming in This Magnitude: A Qualitative Fieldwork Experience in the Northwest Region of Cameroon." [In English]. The Qualitative Report 21, no. 3 (2016 Mar 23 2016): 571-83.
Barton, Greg. Indonesia's Struggle: Jemaah Islamiyah and the Soul of Islam. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2004.
Behar, Ruth. The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.
Bruinessen van, Martin. "Pesantren and Kitab Kuning: Maintenance and Continuation of a Tradition of Religious Learning." In Texts from the Is-lands. Oral and Written Traditions of Indonesia and the Malay World [Ethnologica Bernica, 4], edited by Wolfgang Marschall, 121-45. Berne: University of Berne, 1994.
Bruinessen van, Martin. "Global and Local in Indonesian Islam." South-east Asian Studies (Kyoto) 37, no. 2 (1999): 46-63.
Bruinessen van, Martin. "Traditionalist and Islamist Pesantren in Con-temporary Indonesia." In The Madrasa in Asia: Political Activism and Transnational Linkages, edited by Farish A. Noor. Amsterdam: Amster-dam University Press, 2008.
Bruinessen van, Martin. "Modernism and Anti-Modernism in Indonesian Muslim Responses to Globalisation." In Paper presented at the Workshop "Islam and Development in Southeast Asia: Southeast Asian Muslim Responses to Globalization": Japan International Cooperation Agency & Research Institute Singapore, 2009.
Bubalo, Anthony & Greg Fealy. "Joining the Caravan?: The Middle East, Islamism and Indonesia." In Lowy Institute Paper. Double Bay: Lowy Insitute for International Policy, 2005.
Campbell, John R. "The 'Problem' of Ethics in Contemporary Anthropo-logical Research." Anthropology Matters Journal 12, no. 1 (2010): 1-17.
Clifford, James. "On Ethnographic Authority." Representations, no. 2 (1983): 118-46.
Commins, David. The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia. Library of Modern Middle East Studies. Vol. 50, London, New York: I.B. Tauris, 2006.
Crane, Hillary K. "Flirting with Conversion: Negotiating Researcher Non-Belief with Missionaries." In Missionary Impositions. Conversion, Resistance, and Other Challenges to Objectivity in Religious Ethnogra-phy., edited by Hillary K. Crane and Deana L. Weibel, 11-23. Lanham: Lexington, 2013.
De Fina, Anna. "Researcher and Informant Roles in Narrative Interactions: Constructions of Belonging and Foreign-Ness." Language in Society 40, no. 1 (2011): 27-38.
Eickelman, Dale F. , and James Piscatori. "Social Theory in the Study of Muslim Societies." In Muslim Travellers: Pilgrimage, Migration and the Religious Imagination, edited by Dale F. Eickelman and James Piscatori. Berkeley, Los Angeles: The University of California Press, 1990.
Evans-Pritchard, Edward E. Theories of Primitive Religion. Oxford: Claredon Press, 1965.
Freitag, Ulrike. "Conclusion: The Diaspora since the Age of Independ-ence." In Hadrami Traders, Scholars, and Statesmen in the Indian Ocean, 1750-1960s., edited by U. Freitag and W.G. Clarence-Smith. Leiden, New York, Köln: Brill, 1997.
Freitag, Ulrike, and Achim von Oppen. "Introduction: 'Translocality': An Approach to Connection and Transfer in Area Studies.". In Translocality: The Study of Globalising Processes from a Southern Perspective, edited by U. Freitag and A. von Oppen. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2010.
Geertz, Clifford. The Religion of Java. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976 (1960).
Gray, Barbara. "The Pathways of My Research: A Journey of Personal Engagement and Change." The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 25, no. 5 (1989): 383-98.
Hamdan, Amani K. "Reflexivity of Discomfort in Insider-Outsider Edu-cational Research." Mc Gill Journal of Education Vol. 44, no. No. 3 (2009): 377-404.
Hamzeh, Manal Z., and Kimberly Oliver. "Gaining Research Access into the Lives of Muslim Girls: Researchers Negotiating Muslimness, Modesty, Inshallah, and Haram." International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 23, no. 2 (2009): 165-80.
Houben, Vincent J. H. "Southeast Asia and Islam." Annals of the Ameri-can Academy of Political and Social Science 588 (2003): 149-70.
Houben, Vincent J. H. "Islam and the Perception of Islam in Contempo-rary Indonesia." Occasional Paper Series No. 3, (2015).
Houben, Vincent J. H. "New Area Studies, Translation and Middle Range Concepts." In Area Studies at the Crossroads: Implications for Science Studies, edited by K. Mielke and A.K. Hornidge: Palgrave MacMillan, 2017.
Jacobs-Huey, Lanita. "The Natives Are Gazing and Talking Back: Re-viewing the Problematics of Positionality, Voice, and Accountability among "Native" Anthropologists." American Anthropologist 104, no. 3 (2002): 791-804.
Kilani, Mondher. "Is a Peripheral Anthropology Possible? The Issue of Universalism." Kroeber Anthropological Society 101, no. 1 (2010): 98-105.
Kolig, Erich. "Radical Islam, Islamic Fervour, and Political Sentiments in Central Java, Indonesia." European Journal of East Asian Studies 4, no. 1 (2005): 55-86.
Kuwayama, Takami. "'Natives' as Dialogic Partners: Some Toughts on Native Anthropology." Anthropology Today 19, no. 1 (2003): 8-13.
Laffan, Michael. The Makings of Indonesian Islam: Orientalism and the Narration of a Sufi Past. Princeton, Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2011.
Lukens-Bull, Ronald. A Peaceful Jihad: Negotiating Identity and Moder-nity in Muslim Java. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Muhtadi, Burhanuddin. "The Quest for Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia." Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009): 623-45.
Mulderig, Chloe M. "Feeling Like "Fullah": The Challenges of Being a Religious Convert and Anthropologist." Journal of Contemporary An-thropology 2, no. 1 (2011): 115-19.
Narayan, Kirin. "How Native Is a "Native" Anthropologist?". American Anthropologist 95, no. 3 (1993): 671-86.
Narayan, Kirin. "How Native Is a "Native" Anthropologist?". In Situated Lives: Gender and Culture in Everyday Life, edited by L. Lamphere, H. Ragone and Patricia Zavella, 23-41. New York & London: Routledge, 1997.
Ng, Isabella. "To Whom Does My Voice Belong? (Re)Negotiating Mul-tiple Identities as a Female Ethnographer in Two Hong Kong Rural Vil-lages." Gender, Technology and Development 15, no. 3 (2011/11/01 2011): 437-56.

Noorhaidi, Hasan. "Laskar Jihad: Islam, Militancy, and the Quest for Identity in Post-New Order Indonesia." In Unpublished doctoral disser-tation: Cornell University, 2006.

Pollard, Amy. "Field of Screams: Difficulty and Ethnographic Fieldwork." 2009 11, no. 2 (2009-10-06 2009).

Rabinow, Paul. Reflections of Fieldwork in Morocco. California: Uni-versity of California Press, 1977.

Reinharz, Shulamit. On Becoming a Social Scientist. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1979.

Riddell, Peter G. Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World: Transmission and Responses. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.

Seise, Claudia. Religioscapes in Muslim Indonesia: Personalities, Institu-tions and Practices. Berlin: Regiospectra, 2017.

Sidel, John T. Riots, Pogroms, Jihad: Religious Violence in Indonesia. New York: Cornell University Press, 2006.

Srimulyani, Eka. Women from Traditional Islamic Educational Institutions in Indonesia: Negotiating Public Space. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012.

Tapper, Richard. ""Islamic Anthropology" and the "Anthropology of Is-lam"." Anthropological Quarterly 68, no. 3, Anthropological Analysis and Islamic Texts (1995): 185-93.

Tsuda, Takeyuki. "Is Native Anthropology Really Possible? (Respond to This Article at Https://Www.Therai.Org.Uk/Publications/Anthropology-Today/Debate)." Anthropology Today 31, no. 3 (2015): 14-17.
Turner, Karen. "Becoming an Anthropologist, Becoming a Convert." Popular Anthropology Magazine Vol. 2, no. No. 3 (2011): 34-36.

Wellman, David. "Constituting Ethnographic Authority: The Work Pro-cess of Field Research, an Ethnographic Account." Cultural Studies 8, no. 3 (1994/10/01 1994): 569-84.

Wiegele, Katherine L. "On Being a Participant and an Observer in Reli-gious Ethnography: Silence, Betrayal, and Becoming." In Missionary Impositions. Conversion, Resistance, and Other Challenges to Objectivity in Religious Ethnography., edited by Hillary K. Crane and Deana L. Weibel, 83-92. Lanham: Lexington, 2013.

Woodward, Mark. Islam in Java: Normative Piety and Mysticism in the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. . University Arizona Press, 1989.

Woodward, Mark. "Indonesia, Islam, and the Prospect for Democracy." SAIS Review 21, no. 2 (2001): 29-37.

Woodward, Mark. Java, Indonesia and Islam. Muslims in Global Socie-ties. Springer, 2011.

Zempi, Irene, and Imran Awan. "Doing ‘Dangerous’ Autoethnography on Islamophobic Victimization." Ethnography 0, no. 0 (2017): 1466138117697996.



How to Cite

Seise, C. . (2019). The Muslim Researcher Reflections on Insider/ Outsider Research in Indonesia (Peniliti Muslim Refleksi Penilitian Insider dan Outsider di Indonesia). Journal of Islam in Asia, 16(1), 297-324.