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Since the fall of the Indonesian New Order regime in 1998 there has been a steady rise of Islamic popular culture in the nation....

Since the fall of the Indonesian New Order regime in 1998 there has been a steady rise of Islamic popular culture in the nation. Muslim consumers and producers have cultivated a mediated domain where they can encounter commercial entertainment though the prism of spiritual reflection and piety. In Gender and Islam in Indonesian Cinema (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), Alicia Izharuddin, Women’s Studies in Religion Program Research Associate at Harvard Divinity School, explores the development of the Islamic film genre with a specific focus on gender representation. Indonesian cinema throughout the New Order era focused on Muslim characters, both men and women, frequently framing them in nationalistic ideals. But after the record success of 2008’s film, Ayat-Ayat Cinta (Verses of Love), the viewing preferences of Indonesian Muslim audiences were met with a slew of Islamically themed films. These often contained the repetition of formulaic tropes and symbols deemed Islamic in order to sell out the box office. In our conversation we discussed the characteristics of the film Islami genre, the importance of gender analysis and feminist methodologies, the role of women as actors and filmmakers, idealized masculinities, the public piety of celebrity actresses, producing a “Good Muslim”/ “Bad Muslim” narrative dichotomy, films about the famous Wali Songo saints, and mediated public Islamic values in contemporary Indonesia.


Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at kpeterse@odu.edu.