Steve Gerardo C. Gaspersz (Batch 2011) has just obtained his Doctoral degree on Tuesday, 20 December 2011. In his dissertation entitle Negotiating Religious Identities, Cultural Authorities, and Modernity in Leihitu, Ambon Island, Steve tried to highlight an effort to comprehend processes of socioreligious identity formation through historical trajectory as well as identity contestation in contemporary daily life of Muslim-Christian communities of Leihitu in Ambon, specifically Wakal and Hitumesing (Muslims) and Rumahtiga (Christian). Those negeri (village) acknowledge that they have mythological narrative which based their gandong (sibling) relationship of their ancestors.
“Description of sociocultural contexts of those three negeri adat in Ambon demonstrates that religious dynamic in each negeri strongly influences their social life and power relations. Many empirical and symbolic expressions might be seen throughout everyday internal social activities and sociocultural relations. Religious expression plays a pivotal role to form sociocultural characteristics which in turn influences another way around religious characteristics of Islam and Christianity in those three villages”, Steve said in his presentation.
Historical viewpoint and contemporary social reality are subjects of discourse to discern negotiating process of religious identity as manifestation of power relations. Religion is moving for being structured structures and structuring structures through power relations in historical narratives and contemporary social reality. It is manifested into habitus which then influencing human’s way of being religious and interreligious relationship in social context of Maluku and Indonesia. Religion plays pivotal roles as social capital which, on the one hand, stimulating sociocultural transformation and, on the other hand, preserving social distinctions and/or identification that potentially create social segregation even violent conflict.
“Dialectical conflation between cultural and religious expressions is clearly seen mainly in political institutions in Wakal and Hitumesing. In Rumahtiga, such expression performs in more segregative characters as result strictly separation between gospel and adat, or church and state. The different historical and sociocultural contexts constitute typical understanding about self and community, but at the same time also constituting self-understanding which relates substantially to the other, either Christian or Muslim”, Steve said.
The context of Ambon/Maluku as part of process ‘becoming Indonesia’ with all historical dynamic and social transformation until today – as seen during my field research – demonstrated that negotiating identities (religion and ethnicity) have been undergoing in the context of institutional and dimensional networking. The logic brings to a critical consciousness to avoid cultural traps which construct meaning of identity in essential mindset which is simply strengthening stigmatization and stereotyping toward otherness.