Recent Retrospectives on Robert Hefner’s Civil Islam


Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia by Robert HefnerProfessor of Anthropology and International Relations at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, has figured centrally in the renewed discussion on Indonesia’s success as a Muslim-majority country transitioning to democracy.

In the aftermath of the setbacks of the Arab Spring, Indonesia’s relatively greater measure of success as a Muslim-majority country transitioning to democracy since 1999 has been the subject of increasing policy and academic scrutiny.

On October 27, 2017 the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore organized an international conference retrospective on “Civil Islam Revisited.”  Hefner presented the keynote address and Jeremy Menchik, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Pardee School, presented a comparative essay on Islam and democracy in Indonesia.

On January 18, 2018 it was announced that papers from the conference will be published in a special issue of the Asian Studies Review.   Interest in the Indonesian example has also spread to the neighboring Muslim-majority country of Indonesia.  On January 15, 2018, the first Malay-language translation was published by the PPAS press in Selangor, Malaysia, with the aim (as its Malaysian promoters explained) of heightening discussion of the lessons of democratization in Indonesia for Malaysia.

Robert Hefner has directed 19 research projects and organized 18 international conferences, and authored or edited nineteen books.  He is former president of the Association for Asian Studies.  At CURA, he has directed the program on Islam and civil society since 1991; coordinated interdisciplinary research and public policy programs on religion, pluralism, and world affairs; and is currently involved in two research projects: “The New Western Plurality and Civic Coexistence: Muslims, Catholics, and Secularists in North America and Western Europe”; and “Sharia Transitions: Islamic Law and Ethical Plurality in the Contemporary World.” You can read more about him here

Jeremy Menchik’s research interests include comparative politics, religion and politics, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. At Boston University he is a member of the graduate faculty of political science and coordinates the MAIA program with specialization in Religion and International Affairs.