Fields of the Lord: Animism, Christian Minorities, and State Development in Indonesia
- About the Book
Religious and ethnic violence between Indonesia's Muslims and Christians escalated dramatically just before and after President Suharto resigned in 1998. In this first major ethnographic study of Christianization in Indonesia, Aragon delineates colonial and postcolonial circumstances contributing to the dynamics of these contemporary conflicts.
Aragon's ethnography of Indonesian Christian minorities in Sulawesi combines a political economy of colonial missionization with a microanalysis of shifting religious ideology and practice. Fields of the Lord challenges much comparative religion scholarship by contending that religions, like contemporary cultural groups, be located in their spheres of interaction rather than as the abstracted cognitive and behavioral systems conceived by many adherents, modernist states, and Western scholars.
Aragon's portrayal of “near-tribal” populations who characterize themselves as “fanatic Christians” asks the reader to rethink issues of Indonesian nationalism and “modern” development as they converged in President Suharto's late New Order state. Through its careful documentation of colonial missionary tactics, unexpected postcolonial upheavals, and contemporary Christian narratives, Fields of the Lord analyzes the historical and institutional links between state rule and individuals' religious choices. Beyond these contributions, this ethnography includes captivating stories of Salvation Army “angels of the forest” and nationally marginal but locally autonomous dry-rice and coffee farmers. These Salvation Army “soldiers” make Protestantism work on their own ecological, moral, and political turf, maintaining their communities and ongoing religious concerns in the difficult terrain of the Central Sulawesi highlands.