Migration, Mobility and the Embedding Process
The Nusantara Islam Experience
Keywords:knowledge-baseline, pluralism, plurality, plural society, diversity, migration, European colonial rule, embeddedness, ‘embedization process'
Analysis of Islam, migration, mobility and cultural diversity in Nusantara covers Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines, and Southern Kampuchea. It tends to be highly empirical in orientation, providing rich, detailed narratives, especially those offered by anthropologists. However, researchers are less interested in developing a conceptual umbrella or analytical tools such as the ‘knowledge-baseline’ and the ‘embedded thesis’ and accessing the macro landscape of cultural diversity in the region. This brief presentation begins with a conceptual framework. It argues that the region is heir to Hindu and Buddhist traditions and three European colonial government and administration systems (Portuguese, Dutch, and British). Islam is but one among all these. In some aspects, the Islam practised in the region has been transformed and reformulated by historical-structural realities. Thus, to understand Islam in Nusantara, one must begin with data from the area rather than some Middle Eastern and theological formulation of Islam. However, we must recognize Islam as a universalist theology originating from the Arabic Middle East. Therefore, a more informed analysis and understanding of Islam and Muslims in Nusantara and their contemporary articulations must be ‘embedded’ in the historical reality based on a ‘knowledge baseline,’ or timeline from ‘plurality to plural society to diversity, each representing a component of the generic sociological concept of “pluralism.” Generated by a complex process of migration. Similarly, to understand contemporary Islam and Muslims in the context of cultural diversity within Nusantara, its ‘embedization processes’, both in terms of breadth and depth and migration-based, must be understood historically and sociologically.