Faith in Diplomacy: Foreign Policy, Soft Power, and the Making of “Moderate Islam” in Indonesia


Tuesday, February 12, 2019 - 4:15pm
Faith in Diplomacy: Foreign Policy, Soft Power, and the Making of “Moderate Islam” in Indonesia 
James B. Hoesterey
Emory University
In the wake of 9/11 and the Arab Spring, Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been keen to promote Indonesia as the model for “moderate Islam.” In his 2009 speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Hasan Wirajuda touted Indonesia as evidence of the compatibility of Islam and democracy. More recently, several Indonesian ministries, along with religious leaders and Islamic organizations, now promote “moderate Islam” as part of their domestic counter-terrorism efforts. This presentation examines the development of such programs, paying particular attention to how Indonesian diplomats and religious leaders articulate both Islamic and Indonesian concepts of moderation. This paper calls for a critical approach to the category of “moderate Islam” as not simply the hegemonic projection of a Western concept, but also as central to efforts for internal reform and international diplomacy. 
Jim Hoesterey is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at Emory University. His research focuses on Islam, media, and the cultural politics of public piety in contemporary Indonesia. Hoesterey’s first book, Rebranding Islam: Piety, Prosperity, and a Self-help Guru, chronicles the rise and fall of celebrity televangelist Aa Gym, and was awarded Honorable Mention for the 2016 Clifford Geertz Book Prize in the Anthropology of Religion. His current research examines diplomacy, soft power, and the making of “moderate Islam.” He has served as Secretary for the American Institute for Indonesian Studies (AIFIS) and board member for the Commission for Visual Anthropology (CVA).