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Department of Social Anthropology



In my doctoral project, I look into the intersections between religion, ethics, and political critique. I conducted 13 months of fieldwork with leftist/progressive Muslim activists in Java who are invested in questions of social justice and agrarian issues, in 2017/18. Most of these activists have a theological background in the traditionalist Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama. My thesis aims at an analysis of what ‘progressive’ and ‘leftist’ denote for young activists against the backdrop of anti-Communist violence and repression since the 1960s and in light of their traditionalist Islamic background. Primarily, the thesis discusses Islamic belief, ethics, and politics and their frictions in the Javanese context through the lens of the anthropology of ethics and values. In doing so, my thesis also contributes to the salient question of the role of religion in the political sphere in Indonesia.

My doctoral project builds on previous fieldwork on ethics and subjectivity among leftist student activists in Java, which I undertook for my MA in Social and Cultural Anthropology at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany (graduated 2016). Prior to this, I completed my BA in Social and Cultural Anthropology and Philosophy at Albert Ludwigs University in Freiburg (graduated 2014), during which I took part in a team research project with Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta.

My PhD studies are funded by the William Wyse Studentship. Furthermore, I received a grant by the Evans Fund for conducting fieldwork in Java and was awarded the William Wyse Prize for PhD Proposal, in 2017.


The anthropology of ethics, politics, activism; socialism; the anthropology of religion, particularly Islam; secularism; critique; Indonesia, Java.

Research Title: The Politics and Ethics of Progressive Muslim Activists in Java
Supervisor: Dr. Paolo Heywood
 Sophia Marie Hornbacher-Schönleber (2016)

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