You Are Who You Follow: Negotiating Leadership and Community Identity
I was sitting in a coffee shop with a group of men talking about their small town. When the conversation turned to the local pesantren and the men who ran it, they fell quiet. Only after I assured them that I was not working for any kyai and that no one save me would ever see my notes, did they slowly come to tell me that they did not like these three kyai. It then dawned on me that unlike how most Javanese characterize them, at least in public, kyai were not necessarily universally revered. Even after my assurances that I would take steps to protect their identities, they spoke in low voices and glanced about the room furtively. Their concerns suggest that criticisms of kyai are best relegated to whispered conversations; to drag them into the public sphere would create difficulties no one wishes to even consider.
KeywordsCommunity Identity Electoral Politics Religious Knowledge Democratic Leadership Spiritual Power
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