The Threat of Small Things: Patterns of Repression and Mobilization Against Micro-Sized Groups in Indonesia
My dissertation and book project investigates an oft-overlooked puzzle in the literature on intergroup conflict: conflict involving groups that are less than 1% of the population. Given their economic and political insignificance, why do micro-sized groups become targets of mobilization and repression? I argue that micro-sized groups become threatening when they visibly challenge the essential, constitutive foundations of a group through the occupation of public space. When political entrepreneurs are incentivized to instrumentalize these constitutive threats, rates of anti-minority activity can multiply. I develop this argument through the case of the Ahmadiyah sect in Indonesia. Drawing on archival data, a novel events dataset, and over 135 interviews collected over 17 months of fieldwork, I show how political entrepreneurs exploited the threat of Ahmadiyah communities to gain the support of local clientelist networks that became significant after decentralization.
My findings suggest that threat perception is not just driven by concerns around resources, but is shaped by a group’s public visibility. As a result, my research challenges longstanding assumptions about the necessary material dimensions of threat. Understanding how visible constitutive threats operate can shed light on phenomena that appear to be costly, inefficient, and irrational, such as the ongoing debates around veiling in France. More broadly, my work speaks to the burgeoning literature linking clientelism to conflict. Intergroup conflict is not shaped just by formal electoral rules, but by the structure of clientelist networks.
ARTICLES (Peer Reviewed)
“Informal Networks and Religious Intolerance: How Clientelism Incentivizes the Discrimination of the Ahmadiyah in Indonesia.” 2018. Citizenship Studies, vol 22, no. 2, pp. 191-207. [Indonesian Translation 2019 from Yayasan Pustaka Obor]
Policy papers & commentary
“Indonesia’s 2019 General Election: Democracy in Retreat?” Forthcoming. Asian Politics and Policy.
Manuscripts in pREPARATION*
“Towards Active Reflexivity: Positionality and Practice in the Production of Knowledge” (with Aarjen Glas). Second submission, PS: Political Science.
"The Threat of Small Things: The Occupation of Public Space and the Persecution of Micro-Sized Groups in Indonesia." Job Market Paper, preparing for submission.
“Reflexivity and Research Assistants: How the Social Location of Research Assistants Shapes the Production of Knowledge” (with Syahar Banu). In Progress, prepared for the 2019 American Political Science Association Annual Meeting.
“Mundane Mechanisms of Group Formation and Maintenance: Explaining the Political Unimportance of Ethnic Identity in Maluku, Indonesia.” In Progress, prepared for the 2019 American Political Science Association Annual Meeting Mini Conference on Citizenship in Southeast Asia.