Discussion on Naming Politics in the Growth of Islam in Java and Hambor Tradition as Inspiration for Peace from Manggarai

24 January 2023


Written by Jekonia Tarigan

Accordingly, the presence of religion brings about social and cultural changes. One of the interesting variables to note related to the influence of religious presence related to these social and cultural changes is the trend of changing children's names. Naming a child reflects social choice, with various practices guided by larger personal and social preferences, cultural, and institutional constraints. [i] This was the first topic that was presented and discussed in the tenth diversity dialogue, a presentation forum and research discussion for alumni of the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS) on Saturday, 3 December 2022. This topic was presented by Dr. Askuri, batch 2013 ICRS alumnus, who currently serves as a lecturer at Aisyiyah Yogyakarta University.

In his presentation entitled "Naming Politics in the Growth of Islam in Java,” Askuri explained that there had been a change in the naming practices of Javanese. In the past the Javanese were called Paimun or Tuginem because there was a tradition of petangan (tradition of counting by day of birth) because everything was based on day of birth, so this became a benchmark for determining steps or making decisions in his life. This naming practice offers a view into the ideological dimensions of a society. Because the syntax dimension, the phonology can provide insight for us to understand the social relations that take place in a society. Askuri explained that in the perspective of critical linguistics, personal names can be categorized as a linguistic feature that contains significant information about society. The construction of a textual name (including syntax, composition, semantics, and phonology) can lead to a deeper understanding of the social relationships, institutional, and ideological dimensions in the production process, as well as the reception. A name is a linguistic feature, the change of naming patterns in Java can therefore serve as a lens to observe the social dynamics of its people.

Interestingly, Arabic names in Indonesia are a source of abundant data that has not been widely used. There is a lot of research on names in Java, but most are purely linguistic. There is a lot of research on Islam in Java, but none uses Arabic names as an approach. In fact, Arabic names in Java are very abundant and have become one of the registers of Islamic development. Askuri took a clear position to use Arabic names as an approach to view Islam’s growth in Java. Therefore, in his research, Askuri asked several questions: What is the dynamic of Arabic names in Java? What is the relationship with Muslims in this region? What is the role of the state in the naming practices in Java? What is the effect on the growth of Arabic names and Islamization in Java? How does the politics of naming (power relations) take place amid the growth of Arabic names in Java?

Askuri chose several locations for his research. The first was Bantul (representing the hinterland of Java, called Mataraman or Nagarigung), the home of abangan. The second was Lamongan (representing the North Coast of Java, that called Pasisir), the home of santri. The third was Lumajang (representing East Java, called Ujung Timur or Tanah Sabrang Wetan), which was Islamized by Madurese migrants.

Through quantitative research of 3.7 million names from those three regencies, Askuri found that from 1911-1970 there are many names with the following characteristics: male names with suffixes -an, -in, -un (Paiman, Wagimin, Paerun); female names with suffixes  -em, -en (Sanikem, Marinten) as a time marker; a high concentration of single word names; and renaming tradition (name changing). The name changing trend started in 1971. Pure Javanese names decreased dramatically, and visionary names (Abbad Nailun Nabhan, the servants of Allah who gain glory) emerged. The name change from single word to two or even more (3-5 words) were a low concentration of names. Until the mid-20th century, pure Javanese names were dominant in Bantul, while there was a high number of pure Arabic names in Lamongan and Lumajang. This indicated a social polarization in Java: the Mataraman was the home of abangan, while the Pasisir was the home of santri. Moreover, between them there was a potential for mutual influence, so that parents in Java combined both into hybrid names as names identities for their children. Until the 1970s, the hybrid names in Java were only Javanese-Arabic names. However, since the end of the 20th century, the polarization has faded as the pure Javanese names dramatically shrunk, while the Arabic names in many categories tended to persist and increase. Not only the increasing of Arabic names, but since 1980 there has also been a purification of Arabic names as a reflection of Quranic or Islamic literacy and a higher level of education and prosperity. Interestingly, female names even more progressively changed since the end of 20th century. Female names are more likely to celebrate the colors of beauty, both in terms of meaning and breadth of their linguistic resources.  According to Askuri, the characteristics of Arabic names since the 1980s have become more unique, longer, globalized, drawing from wider linguistic resources, and reflect the breadth of knowledge of the new generation of parents through literacy and education. The naming practices are a form of parental narcissism that designates an increase desired for an improved social class to become more educated and prosperous. It becomes a kind of capital that parents in the face of future global social markets for their children.

There was also a belief of kabotan jeneng, in which ordinary people do not dare to take a name from higher social class for fear of being damned. The parents were constructed by the tradition of Javanese feudalism in children naming. For the santri, they would come to kyai to give names for their children. However, in the period of 1971-2010, the parents from all social classes were free to give any name to their children, without being burdened by a curse of ridicule. At the end of the 20th century,  Indonesia became a modern country with a strong bureaucracy. Following John Stuart Mill, names only serve to identify (denotation) in the absence of meaning (connotation). The population system in modern countries, including Indonesia, fully treats the names according to the denotation logic (to identify) and ignores the logic of connotation (meaning). With the imposition of identity cards which are difficult to change, the name becomes definitive from birth, so the meaningful renaming tradition becomes extinct. This encourages the parents to prepare best names for their children before their birth. They must find the right names that are directly connected to the vision of the future of their children. With a high level of education and prosperity, new parents in Java can access many things. The technology at the end of 20th century provided almost unlimited access to vast linguistic resources through books, magazines, and the internet. The parents have enough capital and resources to play the politics of naming.

Finally, the extent of linguistic resources in naming can be interpreted that the parents want to free their children of the class labelling of the previous Javanese tradition. The hybridity of Javanese children naming certainly brings an implicit message: the parents put Javanese and Arabic names in their children's series of names as a reminder that the children will not forget the Javanese and Islamic identity, and European names as an oreintation to the children that they will face a modern and globalized relationship.

The second presenter was Dr. Maksmilianus Jemali. He is an alumnus of ICRS Batch 2018, and serves as a lecturer at Santu Paulus Ruteng Catholic University.  Jemali delivered a presentation entitled 'The Hambor Tradition: Inspiration for Peace from Manggarai, Flores'. In his presentation, Jemali explained that his research was motivated by the fact that horizontal and vertical conflicts often occur in various regions in Indonesia, even though Indonesia has many local traditions related to conflict management and peace. Each tradition has its own peculiarities and ways of resolving conflict. According to Jemali, violence and peace are two sides of a coin, so it is necessary to intensively explore traditions from various regions, and in this case Jemali focuses on the Hambor tradition in Manggarai culture. According to that, Jemali's research aims to examine what the meanings, influences, and manifestations of harm are for the Manggarai people, both personally and socially? And what is the role of Hambor in managing conflict and peace in Manggarai?

Jemali argues that attention to local narratives and cultural constructions is related to efforts to manage conflict and peace according to Jemali in accordance with the thoughts of two philosophers, namely Jean-François Lyotard and Pierre Bordieu. Following Lyotard, small narratives or local people's narratives are seen as a source of knowledge in the postmodern era. Meanwhile, Bourdieu identifies small narratives in local traditions through his concepts such as habitus, capital, realm, doxan and illusio and sees peace in small narratives. Hambor means peace, brotherhood, kinship, and work. In the context of the philosophy of a spider web society, when one part of the web is broken, all relationships will be broken. The relationships discussed here are not only relations between humans, but also with the natural world of animals and plants. The spider's web is taken as a symbol because it is a symbol of strength and a symbol of the spirit of repair because the spider immediately repairs its web when there is damage. Therefore, Hambor orientation involves the soul, nature, ancestors, creators, and fellow human beings.

Furthermore, Jemali argues that the Manggarai people do not deny that the conflict occurred between them, but they casually resolve the conflict through four levels of conflict resolution. First, peace is carried out by the warring parties. Both peaces are carried out by the head of the family (tu'a kilo) sitting in a circle called ‘lonto leok’ on the same mat as a symbol of equality and connectedness. This is done in the family because internal resolution, without the interference of others, really needs to be done. In a family atmosphere, it is also hoped that conflict resolution does not need to require large and expensive conditions, perhaps it can only require an apology. In this case, the term gunis peheng or turmeric that heals wounds is known, because in a conflict, of course, there are parties who are injured or suffer material losses that must be shared. However, it is hoped that in a family setting, compensation will not be a burden to any party. The third stage was initiated by the tribal chief (tu'a panga). And at the fourth level it is completed by the head of the village (tu'a golo) involving the residents of Wunis Peheng, mboku agu lia. Issues will be discussed in the traditional house with all the participants sitting in a circle, but the tu'a golo or village head will sit in a special place, leaning against a humped betel tree which represents the presence of a woman or mother who is full of love for all.

Finally, according to Jemali Hambor, it can be seen as economic capital, social capital, cultural capital, and typical symbolic capital of Manggarai. The inheritance of the Hambor tradition must be continued by parents, traditional leaders, educators, government, and religious leaders. Indeed, there are some critical thoughts on Hambor, for example, related to male domination in the feudal leadership style. Then there was a leadership crisis, in the midst of materialism mentality, the ignorance of the younger generation and dissatisfaction with tradition and the Hambor process also became a problem. Therefore, in the end, Hambor in a religious pluralistic society requires a new approach by reviving the lonto leok tradition, strengthening Hambor values ​​that are relevant to religious values ​​so that Hambor becomes an interreligious capital and habitus of peace.



[i] Richard W. Bulliet, “First Names and Political Change in Modern Turkey,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 9, no. 4 (1978): 489–95. p. 489