Looking through class: or to what extent is Islamic online religiosity a middle-class phenomenon in Indonesia?

Martin Slama (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Abstract

The paper is part of a broader attempt to map Islamic online practices in relation to the class positions of Indonesian Muslims. It explores how users, including Islamic preachers and their followers, link social media practices with class differences. For example, they apply the popular expressions of “middle-class to upper-class” (kelas menengah ke atas) and “middle-class to lower class” (kelas menengah ke bawah) that are used in Indonesia in various contexts to social media usage as well. This distinction ascribes to the latter group no or limited participation in certain Islamic online practices suggesting the existence of an Islamic digital divide in Indonesia. The paper discusses a variety of social media practices where such a divide can be discerned, not only from an emic but also from an etic perspective, and asks to what extent Islamic online religiosity in Indonesia can be mainly seen as a middle-class phenomenon, including whether today’s extensive religious uses of social media reinforce class differences among Indonesian Muslims or whether one can also spot trends that point in the opposite direction. Overall, the paper offers a view on online Islamic religiosity by using class, understood as informed by both practices of production and consumption, as a central analytical concept and thus is “looking through class” at Indonesia’s vivid social media realm.