Seminar : “Shaming the State: Piety, Pornography, and Celebrity Preachers in Indonesia” by James B. Hoesterey, 23 February 2017, KITLV, Leiden
This paper examines the role of visual culture in the constitution – and contestation – of public piety during Indonesia’s controversial anti-pornography campaign. Building on Hirschkind’s concept of the “pious sensorium,” the paper describes how looking itself can be an ethical and political act. Inspired by al-Ghazzali’s notion of the “fornication of the eye,” celebrity televangelist Abdullah Gymnastiar preached that those who cannot control their sexual gaze eventually tarnish their hearts and lose their sense of shame. Bridging Althusser’s notion of interpellation with Aretxaga’s attention to the “subjectivity of the state,” this paper examines how Gymnastiar turned his ethical gaze towards the state, parlayed his public pulpit into political voice, and summoned state officials to take a moral stand against pornography. This focus on a celebrity preacher’s strategy of “shaming of the state” provides unique insights into political Islam that enrich, nuance, and at times contradict the current scholarly focus on electoral politics, political economy, and traditional Islamic organizations.
James Hoesterey is Assistant Professor at the Department of Religion of the Emory University. His research and teaching interests include Islam, popular culture, new media, moral subjectivity, religious biography and religious authority.