Photography and Chineseness: Reflections on “Chinese Muslims in Indonesia” (2015)

presentation I am honoured to be invited to present a paper titled Photography and Chineseness: Reflections on “Chinese Muslims in Indonesia” on 3 Dec 2015 for the two-day international conference, “Chinese Muslim (Hui) in Diaspora: Culture, Gender, Identity, and Religious Traditions”, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). The organiser of the conference is the Centre for the Study of Islamic Culture, Research Institute for the Humanities, CUHK.


This paper takes my previous photo book, Chinese Muslims in Indonesia (2007-09) as starting point. The first section of the paper details the motivations, methodology and findings of the work. The second section advances some of my thoughts on photography, with its attentive focus on the particular and the performative. Photography, or documenting (as method), frames and provides a performative space for the sitter and the photographer to project their desires in the collaborative encounter. Here, I discuss the performative in relation both to the issue of reactivity in sociological fieldwork and the cultural turn in dakwah amongst some Chinese Muslim leaders in the post-Suharto era. The subjectivity of each particular encounter helps to visualise and complicate the notion of Chineseness amongst the Sinophone Muslim communities in Indonesia.

Keywords: Chineseness, Sinophone, Diaspora, Indonesia, Islam, Photography, Performative, Dakwah