“Politics” by Other Means: Using Education to Negotiate Change

  • Ronald Lukens-Bull
Part of the Contemporary Anthropology of Religion book series (CAR)


In the summer of 1992, I was attending a language program in Malang, East Java. During a weeklong break, one of my language teachers took me to a number of pesantren in East Java. I had, of course, already formed an interest in them based on readings, but had yet to see them “on the ground,” so to speak. I have to confess that I was left more confused than anything else by that initial foray. In part, it was due to ethnocentric understandings of the terms modern and traditional that I held at the tender age of 26. Mas Yanto had taken me to a number of pesantren and told me briefly what he thought of them. We visited one that had huge gleaming buildings with ceramic tiles, apartment block buildings for the students dormitories, pedestal toilets, and even air-conditioning and a bed in the guest room in which we stayed. Yanto, who had never spent anytime in a pesantren, but was interested in attending one after he completed his college degree, told me that this pesantren was a very traditional one. He took me to another that was by comparison, rusticated. Although it had been nicely landscaped, some of the buildings were built of bamboo, many of them were simple concrete covered with a watered down paint that barely hid the grime and mold that accumulates in a tropical climate.


Classical Text Religious Education Islamic World Religious Knowledge Arabic Script 
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© Ronald Lukens-Bull 2005

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  • Ronald Lukens-Bull

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