Ethics of Belonging: Education, Religion, and Politics in Manado, Indonesia

Hardback: $68.00
ISBN-13: 9780824894436
Published: November 2023

Additional Information

254 pages | 13 b&w illustrations
  • About the Book
  • The city of Manado and province of North Sulawesi have built a public identity based on religious harmony, claiming to successfully model tolerance and inter-religious relations for the rest of Indonesia. Yet, in discourses and practices relevant to everyday interactions in schools and political debates in the public sphere, two primary contested frames for belonging emerge in tension with one another. On the one hand, “aspirational coexistence” recognizes a common goal of working toward religious harmony and inclusive belonging. On the other hand, “majoritarian coexistence,” in which the legitimacy of religious minorities is understood as guaranteed exclusively by the goodwill of the Protestant majority, also emerges in discourses and practices of coexistence. These two agonistic frames of coexistence stem from both a real pride at having staved off ethno-religious violence that plagued surrounding regions at the turn of the twenty-first century, as well as a concern about whether the area will maintain a Christian majority in the future.

    Based on ethnographic research in Manado, North Sulawesi, a Protestant-majority region of Indonesia, Ethics of Belonging investigates the dynamics of ethical deliberation about religious coexistence. In this analysis, schools are understood as central sites for exchange about the ethics and politics of belonging in the nation. The author draws on in-depth fieldwork at three secondary schools (a public high school, private Catholic boarding school, and public madrasah), an inter-religious “exchange” program among university students, and societal debates about religion and belonging. Each of the schools promotes a distinct method to addressing diversity and a particular understanding of the relationship between religious and civic values. Larson’s research demonstrates how ethical frameworks for approaching religious difference are channeled and negotiated through educational institutions, linking up with their broader political context and debates in the community. This resource argues for a consideration of ethical reflection as a fundamentally pedagogical process, with important ramifications beyond the immediate environment. The focus on educational institutions provides a critical connection between interpersonal and public ethical deliberation, elucidating the entanglements of ethics and politics and their manifestation across different societal scales.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Erica M. Larson, Author

      Erica M. Larson is research fellow in the Religion and Globalisation Cluster at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • Larson presents an interesting case study about how educators attempt to teach the values of pluralism to high school students in North Sulawesi, a Christian majority region of Indonesia. These efforts at teaching and instilling the values of inclusivism are consistently challenged by the tendency in Indonesia to view things through the lens of majoritarianism when it comes to religion. Her work is a welcome addition to the literature on pluralism and religious diversity in that discussions of pluralism in Indonesia overwhelmingly focus on Islam and how Islamic segments of society contribute to or hinder efforts at creating a more inclusive Indonesia.
      —Christopher Duncan, Rutgers University
    • Ethics of Belonging offers a sophisticated ethnographic and theoretical inquiry into deliberative practices of education and religious citizenship in contemporary Indonesia. Its discussion of, and arguments concerning, the study of ethics will be of great interest to scholars well beyond Indonesia, especially in anthropology and social sciences and humanities more broadly. The author has brought together a remarkable range of ethnographic insights from multiple fields of social, religious, and political production. This focus on deliberation offers a remedy for overdetermined explanations about discipline and state power in the formation of ethical subjects.
      —James B. Hoesterey, Emory University