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Contestation for Authority: Internet and Islam among Pandalungan Kiais


The internet has become an integral part of the current Indonesian society's life. Meanwhile, the figure of kiai clearly cannot be separated from the history of Indonesian socio-religious life, even until now. Those two facts create an interesting phenomenon of the kiais' engagement with the internet and its implication on the construction of religious authority in the context of Indonesian Islam. Using mediatization theory and theories on religious authority as the foundation, this dissertation discusses the problem of how the authority of religion and religious leaders shape and are changed by media. Or, in other words, how have they changed as a mediatized reality? Based on the data collected through library research and field work in one particular Kiai's community in Pandalungan area, this dissertation concludes that there is only a low degree of mediatization in Pandalungan Kiai. For this research acknowledges, on one side, there is particular element in Pandalungan Kiai (the hierarchical nature of kiai-ness) that is subject to the rule of media logic. On the other side, there is still a bigger picture of it that is not following and depending on media logics. The Pandalungan Kiai, with his strong religious and cultural capitals and supported by the solid conditions and system of kiai-ness, survives in a media life. In a more general context, this case of Pandalungan Kiai's survival can be generalized to other cases of religious leaders, from different religious traditions, who have the same cultural and religious environments in Indonesia. However, this research sees that this case is unique to Indonesia where religion and culture are strongly embedded in the society (in its different degree). Accordingly, mediatization theory which is born in the middle of Scandinavian countries, at the ends, finds its different explanation in Indonesian context.

Key Words: Religious Authority, Mediatization, Internet, Pandalungan, Kiai