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Department of Social Anthropology



My research explores the relationship between ethical reflection and political practice in activism and wider social and political movements in Indonesia.

I am currently working on a book project on leftist Muslim activism in Java. The manuscript is based on my doctoral dissertation, for which I conducted 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork with activists primarily engaged in solidarity with peasants faced with agrarian conflicts. It explores the roles that Islam and Marxism play in their activism against the backdrop of a society in which leftist politics have been criminalised since the violent extermination of the communist party in 1965. I show how activists work towards what they see as a progressive form of Islam by emphasising ethical affinities between the two respective traditions, particularly in the teloi of social justice and liberation, whilst suspending questions over their wider metaphysical coherence. By studying the relations activists make between Islam and Marxism, my research contributes to anthropological debates about the coherence of moral traditions, about the relationship between ethics and politics, and Islamic ethics beyond the issues of piety, ‘Islamism’, or neoliberal modernity.

I have recently begun a new research project, looking at grassroots agrarian and environmentalist activism in Java through a focus on Samin, a self-avowed peasant movement that is currently mobilising against resource extractivism and restrictive land use regimes. This research expands my overarching interest in matters of justice, egalitarianism, and ecological thought at the intersection of ethics and politics.

I received my PhD in Social Anthropology in July 2021 from the University of Cambridge. Prior to this, I completed my BA in Social and Cultural Anthropology and Philosophy at Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg (graduated 2014) and a research-oriented MA in Social and Cultural Anthropology at Goethe University in Frankfurt (graduated 2016). My PhD studies were funded by the William Wyse Studentship and the Evans Fund.


Activism; ethics; anarchism, egalitarianism; socialism; agrarian relations; environmentalism, human ecology; Islam, secularism; history and memory; Indonesia

Teaching and Supervisions


Undergraduate Supervision

SAN1 – Social Anthropology: The Comparative Perspective

SAN5 – Ethical Life and the Anthropology of the Subject

SAN6 – Power, Economy and Social Transformation


Postgraduate Supervision

MP1 – Scope of Social Anthropology: Production and Reproduction

MP2 – Scope of Social Anthropology: Systems of Power and Knowledge

Postgraduate Teaching

MPhil Social Anthropology MP4 – Research Design Workshops

MPhil Social Anthropological Research – Research Methods I and II

Affiliated Researcher
 Sophia Marie Hornbacher-Schönleber (2016)

Contact Details

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