Prof. Julian Millie1
1Monash University, , Australia
In 1975 the Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs announced that the Ministry would thenceforth send students to Western universities, departing from a previous emphasis on Middle Eastern centres of scholarship. Scholarly understandings of this decision generally connect it to contest over the ideological fabric of Indonesian Islam: exclusivist tendencies might be moderated through Western approaches to the study of religion. I argue that ‘graduate attributes’ is a better concept for understanding this policy change. This is indicated in the Minister’s policy announcement of the time: ‘A person’s thought process, which is the most important qualitative element of higher education, has to display a modern, open and critical attitude’. My argument proceeds from the position that graduate attributes underpin government policy, but can only be observed empirically in styles of communication and expression. This paper argues that the comparative meanings of ritual and communicative styles are the foundations of graduate attributes, and these provide a context for understanding the decision to divert bodies away from the Middle-East. I explore the contrasting meanings Indonesians attach to the ritual and communicative styles associated respectively with western universities and Egypt’s Al-Azhar University.
Julian is an Anthropologist specialising in Islamic practice in Indonesia, along with its social and political meanings. His most recent books are ‘Hearing Allah’s Call: Preaching and performance in Indonesian Islam’ (Cornell University Press, 2017) and the edited volume, ‘Hasan Mustapa: Ethnicity and Islam in Indonesia’ (Monash University Publishing, 2017).