Unveiled in Public: Religiosity and Democracy

Suzie Handajani

Universitas Gadjah Mada Department of Anthropology, Indonesia

This paper examines the practice of unveiling among Indonesian youth. These are young women who strategically take off their veils in their daily lives. In the midst of rising public display of religiosity in Indonesia, it is interesting to see these practices of unveiling, either permanently, regularly or occasionally and the justification for doing so. It is surprising that some of these women provide a very religious excuse for doing not-so-religious practice (i.e. unveiling). I argue that this practice could indicate, in a subtle way, that religious pluralism exists in small pockets in society despite efforts to turn Islam into a homogenous practice. This way democracy finds its way through (un)religious practices and women are involved in voicing their difference of opinions through an avenue that seems unconventional. As Islam is turning more and more political, the practice of democracy seems to be more elusive as different points of view are seen as threats rather than mere opposition. However, micro-politics and daily practices may provide hope for the continuing practice of democracy.


Suzie Handajani is a lecturer at the Department of Anthropology, Universitas Gadjah Mada. Her field of interest is popular culture, gender and media. She has done research on gender and representation. She is currently researching beauty and lifestyle.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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