Dissertation Abstracts

The Dakwah Media in Post Suharto Indonesia: From Politics of Identity to Popular Culture (The Case of Ummi)

Author: Pamungkas, Arie Set, arietia@gmail.com
Department: Southeast Asian Studies
University: Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany
Supervisor: Vincent Houben
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Islam , Media , Politics of Identity , Popular Culture
Areas of Research: Communication, Knowledge and Culture , Religion , Political Sociology


The growth of media in the Post-Suharto era has been the result of press freedom established by President B. J. Habibie in 1999. Freed from the past constraints of state censorship and propaganda, all segments of the media community, including Islamic media, have moved rapidly towards diversity and plurality. With regard to the diversity of Islamic media, the term ‘the dakwah media’ hence is not only about labeling ‘Islam’ but also about ‘constructing’ dakwah. Dakwah itself literally means ‘proselytization of Islam’, ‘issuing a summons’ or ‘making an invitation’.

My PhD project aims to provide a brief analysis of the shift of the dakwah media, which used to be political vehicles for establishing constituencies especially for the ‘tarbiyah movement’ in the Suharto era, to the current tendency of popularizing the Tarbiyah identity as a new life style. The tarbiyah movement in Indonesia is a social and political movement among Indonesian Muslim students especially activists in the Suharto period. The word tarbiyah itself is taken from Arabic which means ‘education’. The dakwah method introduced by the tarbiyah movement refers to the ‘tarbiyah method’ of Ikhwanul Muslimin.

The study of dakwah media has been conducted using three methods. First, I relied on framing and content analysis of the journals of Ummi from 1989 to 2009, totaling almost 20 years worth of publications. The aim was to capture the main themes of the magazine so it is possible to identify its ideological compositions. Second, I looked at reader reception of the content of the journals. Lastly, I conducted interviews in Jakarta in early 2010 with some Ummi editorial staffs.

Following 9/11 and the Bali Bombings of 2002, the dakwah media has shown some changes. Ummi, of course, has echoed such dynamics and has experienced a so-called transformation which marked its current journals' appeals. Given this, my research is motivated by two questions: First, how has the Ummi been transformed in post Suharto era and what reasons lie behind these changes? Second, what are the implications of such transformation on the female readership? Or, put differently, what are the roles of the readers as active agents in shaping such transformation made by Ummi? It is important to underline the fact that Ummi is no longer an underground circulation among the dakwah activists like it was under Suharto's rule; for a decade, it has been publicly accessible anywhere in Indonesia. This leads me to further contest how such transformation may affect its readership due to a growing number of new readers. This means, whether Ummi as a dakwah media is still perceived by its readers deploying ideological impositions or simply providing alternatives for life style or consumption where religious self-help is the major feature of the magazine.