Saturday, November 15, 2014

Regulation of “Religion” and the “Religious”: The Politics of Judicialization and Bureaucratization in India and Indonesia

Comparative Studies in Society and History / Volume 56 / Issue 02 / April 2014, pp 448-478


Regulation of “Religion” and the “Religious”: The Politics of Judicialization and Bureaucratization in India and Indonesia

Yüksel Sezgina1 c1 and Mirjam Künklera2
a1 Syracuse University
a2 Princeton University

AbstractThis article compares the strategies through which Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Indonesia have regulated religion and addressed questions of what constitutes “the religious” in the post-independence period. We show that the dominant approach pursued by the Indian state has been one of judicialization—the delegation of religious questions to the high courts—while in Indonesia it has predominantly been one of bureaucratization—the regulation of religious issues by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Contrary to the expectation that judicialization devitalizes normative conflicts while bureaucratization, more frequently associated with authoritarian politics, “locks” these conflicts “in,” we show that these expectations have not materialized, and at times, the effects have been reverse. Engaging the literatures on judicialization and on bureaucratization, we argue that what determines the consequences of the policy toward religion is less the choice of the implementing institution (i.e., the judiciary or bureaucracy) than the mode of delegation (vertical versus horizontal) which shapes the relationship between the policy-maker and the institution implementing it. Bureaucrats, judges, and elected politicians in multicultural societies around the world encounter questions of religious nature very similar to those that authorities in India and Indonesia have faced. How they address the challenge of religious heterogeneity has a profound impact on prospects of nation-building and democratization. It is therefore imperative that the consequences of the policy toward religion, and even more so the consequences of political delegation, be studied more systematically.


Several friends and colleagues have provided valuable feedback at various stages of writing this manuscript, among them the participants of a SSRC-funded workshop, Religious Norms in the Public Sphere, held at the European University Institute, Florence, 16–18 December 2010, as well as the participants of the 2010–2011 Harvard Divinity School WSRP Research Colloquium. We thank them, and the anonymous CSSH reviewers for their very helpful comments.