Kevin W. Fogg

Islamic History in Southeast Asia



Dr. Fogg's research focuses on the history of Muslims in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, during the twentieth century.


His first book, based in part on his dissertation at Yale, is tentatively titled Indonesia's Islamic Revolution and studies Islamic understandings of and experiences in Indonesia's Revolution (1945-1949).  Trying to integrate both history from below and the critical evolutions of Islamic politics on a national level, the book pulls from archives across Indonesia and oral history interviews with over one hundred sources. The first part chronicles how grassroots Muslim participants believed that they were fighting to establish an Islamic state, incorporating Islamic militias, ulama leadership, amulets and spells, and social revolution in the struggle. The second part turns to high politics. Although the Islamic faction of the elite was not successful in making Indonesia an Islamic state, the revolution laid down important precedents that continue to impact Indonesian politics and the practice of Islam until today, such as laymen becoming Islamic politicians and the establishment of a Ministry of Religion. Beyond the case of Indonesia, the disconnect between the grassroots and the elite seen here speaks to the nature of Islam as an ideology of revolution: it functions very differently for different sectors of revolutionary society. The manuscript is under review.


Dr. Fogg is also active writing for journals. He has published a contextual biography of K.H. Ahmad Azhary, appointed to be Indonesia's third Minister of Religion but never able to take up his post. His analysis of Arab normativity of the most famous colonial scholar of Indonesian Islam, Snouck Hurgronje, was published as a journal article in 2014 and recently republished in Indonesian translation. In February 2015, the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies carried one of his articles on the impact of language change on Muslim communities in Indonesia. Because independent Indonesia no longer used the Arabic-script form of the national language after 1945, thousands of traditional religious leaders were rendered illiterate and thus disqualified from government positions in the new state. Another article in 2015 looked at the diplomatic history of Indonesia and the Arab world in the 1940s, examining the role of Islam in the relationship as it shifted from societal connections to formal state recognition.


Several other articles are also forthcoming. One is a history of Islamic Socialism in Indonesia, looking at the influences from Indian Muslim thinkers that led to the rise of this ideology, the peculiar method of transmission that took Islamic Socialist thought from the South Asian diaspora in London to Indonesia, and the legacies of Islamic Socialism in Indonesian politics. Look for it in Modern Asian Studies.  Another article under review looks at the process of canonizing national heroes (pahlawan nasional) in Indonesia, at the intersection of historical documentation and political interests. Other interests include comparative religious nationalism across Southeast Asia and the PRRI rebellion of 1958-1961.


Other pieces appear in edited volumes. On the seventieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Asia, Dr. Fogg was one of the contributors to an edited volume commemorating the events of the first 100 days after Japan's surrender. In Southeast Asian Schools in Modern History: Education, Manipulation and Contest, he has written about the increasing interdigitation of the state and Islamic educational systems in Indonesia. Coming soon from Cambridge University Press, he has written on the shifting definitions of religion in the early Indonesian Republic by looking at how this category was regulated by the state; this will be published in Regulating Religion in Asia: Norms, Modes, and Challenges.


Dr. Fogg has also received a grant from the British Academy to work in collaboration with Dr. Syahrul Hidayat of the University of Exeter and the University of Indonesia in a project that documented the members of Indonesia's constitutional assembly (the Konstituante), the largest elected legislative body after independence. That data is now available in an online research database:


From July 2016 to April 2017, Dr. Fogg conducted fieldwork on mass Islamic organizations in Indonesia based outside of Java, chronicling their historical evolution and their current status, working with local partners in Lombok, Central Sulawesi, and North Sumatra to study the Nahdlatul Wathan, Alkhairaat, and Jamiyatul Washliyah organizations, respectively. (Other regional traditionalist organizations, both historical and contemporary, that can be considered in this category include the Musjawaratutthalibin in South Kalimantan, Perti in West Sumatra, and Darul Dakwah wal Irsyad in South Sulawesi.) For some of these organizations, this project is the first time they are documented in English. That does not mean these groups are small, though. Nahdlatul Wathan, for example, has dominated politics in West Nusa Tenggara province for decades, and the current governor is also the head of the Islamic organization. In the North Sumatran provincial parliament, the "Washliyah" caucus based in the mass organization is the largest caucus in the legislative body, spanning all parties except the Christian one. Alkhairaat runs the largest network of schools in Eastern Indonesia, with thousands of local branches and millions of graduates. Collaborative work between Dr. Fogg and Indonesian partner institutions will help not only to shine light on these organizations, but it will also compare across organizations and regions in useful ways and question the broader role of religious civil society organizations in Indonesia. A monograph based on this research is tentatively titled Mainline Islam: Islamic Associational Life in Indonesia.


For a full curriculum vitae, please click over to his page. There you can also find links to his articles and his many book reviews.



The above photo of Muslim men in South Kalimantan in the 1950s comes from Irfan Noor and Ahmad Syadzali; many thanks to them and colleagues at IAIN-Banjarmasin for being great hosts.