Islam, Law, and Equality in Indonesia: An Anthropology of Public Reasoning

In Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, Muslims struggle to reconcile radically different sets of social norms and laws, including those derived from Islam, local social norms, and contemporary ideas about gender equality and rule of law. In this new study, John Bowen explores this struggle, through archival and ethnographic research in villages and courtrooms of the Aceh Province, Sumatra, and through interviews with national religious and legal figures. He analyses the social frameworks for disputes about land, inheritance, marriage, divorce, Islamic History and, more broadly, about the relationships between the state and Islam, and between Muslims and non-Muslims. The book speaks to debates carried out in all societies about how people can live together with their deep differences in values and ways of life. It will be welcomed by scholars and students across the social sciences, particularly those interested in anthropology, cultural sociology and political theory.

• Indonesia is a critical place for study, being the world’s largest Muslim-majority country • An empirical analysis of a non-Western society brought to bear on current debates in political theory • A unique combination of local-level ethnography, historical analysis of courtroom decisions, and the study of law’s place in national debates


Part I. Village Repertoires: 1. Law, religion and pluralism; 2. Adat’s local inequalities; 3. Remapping Adat; Part II. Reasoning Legally through Scripture: 4. The contours of the courts; 5. The judicial history of ‘consensus’; 6. The poisoned gift; 7. Historicizing scripture, justifying equality; Part III. Governing Muslims through Family: 8. Whose word is law?; 9. Gender equality in the family?; 10. Justifying religious boundaries; 11. Public reasoning across cultural pluralism.


\'… John Bowen has presented one of the most comprehensive studies of the workings of legal pluralism in Indonesia … impressive. This is indeed a book that should be read by all interested in the origins, processes and consequences of legal pluralism in Indonesia and the problems of gender equality and justice.\' Asian Anthropology

\'The latest volume of Bowen\'s Gayo trilogy is superb anthropology.\' Rezensionen