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Friday Forum: Claire-Marie Hefner
November 5, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Morality, Religious Authority, and the Digital Edge: Indonesian Muslim School Girls Online
Claire-Marie Hefner, Ph.D.
Hunt Postdoctoral Fellow, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research
Visiting Research Scholar, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
In Indonesian Islamic boarding schools (pesantren), access to digital media is strictly regulated, if allowed at all. Gendered discourses surrounding morality are such that young women students are viewed as particularly susceptible to the perceived moral dangers of uncensored Internet content and the unmonitored communication of social media and cellphones. At the same time, digital literacy is seen as key to social advancement and higher education, particularly among upwardly mobile middle-class families.
In this presentation, Hefner argues that some young women students and recent alumni successfully cultivate a “digital edge”—the social agility to navigate the moral challenges, scrutiny, and social surveillance they encounter online while adhering to key gender norms. This “digital edge,” paired with religious training, creates new online spaces for young women to claim religious authority over peers and even parents. In this way, young women’s social practices online are not adequately or most appropriately characterized as resistance to the ethical instruction of institutions and families, as the formation of a kind of counter public or alternative moral system. Rather, they reflect patterns similar to their offline friendships—a deep sense of commitment to a shared moral project even while students explore the new and sometimes risky social space of the digital world. Closer attention to micro-level choices and the semiotics of self-representation online reflect the potential socio-religious ramifications of their online decision-making processes.
This event is free and open to the public. A recording of the talk will be available on the CSEAS YouTube channel following the event.