Ph.D. Cultural Anthropology

 Morality,Education, Women, Gender, Piety, Islam, Indonesia (Java),
Performance, Sexuality.

I am a visiting assistant professor in Cultural Anthropology at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York (Fall 2016-Spring 2018).  

I received my Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in May of 2016.  My dissertation, Achieving Islam: Women, Piety, and Moral Education in Indonesian Muslim Boarding Schools, is a comparative study of women's achievement and moral learning in two Islamic boarding schools for girls in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  My dissertation engages contemporary theories in the anthropology of morality, education, ethical subject formation, and Islam.  I conducted my field research in Yogyakarta, Indonesia from October 2011-July 2013Pre-field and dissertation field research for this project were made possible by the NSF-Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, respectively.  During the 2015-2016 academic year, I was based at Emory University where I completed my dissertation with the generous support of the National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship.  In the summer of 2016, I returned to Indonesia (thanks to the support of Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant) to present, discuss, and share my findings with the schools of my study as well as the local academic community.

Achieving Islam is a comparative study of moral education and ethical subject formation in two nationally renowned Islamic boarding schools for girls in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  Building on twenty-one months of ethnographic field research (2011-2013), the manuscript examines how young Muslim women learn and engage with what it means to be pious, educated, and modern in contemporary Indonesia.  The two schools were selected for their national prominence within the respective mass social welfare organizations of which they are a part: the traditionalist Nahdlatul Ulama (35 million members) and the modernist Muhammadiyah (25 million members).  Both schools are regarded as educational leaders in their respective communities.  

Achieving Islam analyzes the role of “reflective freedom” (Laidlaw 2014)—the ability of actors to stand apart from their actions and turn them into objects of evaluative thought—in the ethical training of young Muslim women at these two schools.  As such, this dissertation analyzes the process of religious subject formation not by privileging the perspective of the institutions, administrators, and teachers, but by examining what Jarrett Zigon has called the “fragmented moral world” (2009) in which girls live.  I argue that even in a protective, ethically-focused institution like an Islamic boarding school, issues of morality and ethical training do not exist in a vacuum.  Instead, they contend with other concerns in girls’ lives—from romance to consumption, popular culture to self-presentation.  Research methods included observations of classrooms and extracurricular activities as well as dormitories, leisure outings off school grounds, and home visits with families.  Semi-structured interviews and life histories were conducted with students, parents, teachers, and administrators; methods also included a multivariate survey of students’ socio-economic and educational backgrounds and their career and family aspirations. This study’s ethnographic findings demonstrate how the personal and social determination of what the psychiatric anthropologist Arthur Kleinman (2006) has described as “what really matters” – that is, ethical concerns central to one’s self-understanding and social aspirations – involves a subtle interaction between school practices, social networks, and the biographies and personalities actors bring to their educational and public socialization.  It is this interaction that my research analyzes, in an effort to contribute a more variegated understanding of Islamic education, ethics, and subjectivity.