Regulation of 'Religion' and the 'Religious': The Politics of Judicialization and Bureaucratization in India and Indonesia

Yuksel Sezgin

Syracuse University

Mirjam Künkler

Princeton University

August 9, 2013

Comparative Studies in Society and History, 2014;56(2):448-478

The article compares the strategies through which Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Indonesia have regulated religion and addressed questions of what constitutes “the religious” in the post-independence period. We show that the dominant approach pursued by the Indian state has been one of judicialization, i.e. the delegation of religious questions to the high courts, while in Indonesia it has predominantly been one of bureaucratization, i.e. the regulation of religious affairs through the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Contrary to the expectation that judicialization devitalizes normative conflicts while bureaucratization, more frequently associated with authoritarian politics, just “locks” these conflicts “in,” we show that these expectations have not materialized; indeed, at times, the effects have been reverse. Engaging the literatures on judicialization and on bureaucratization, we argue that what determines the consequences of the policy toward religion is less the choice of the implementing institution (i.e. the judiciary or bureaucracy) than the mode of delegation (vertical vs. horizontal) which shapes the relationship between the policy-maker and the institution implementing it. Bureaucrats, judges and elected politicians in multicultural societies around the world encounter questions of religious nature very similar to those that authorities in India and Indonesia tackle. How they respond to questions of religion and address the challenge of religious heterogeneity has a profound impact on prospects of nation-building and democratization. It is therefore imperative that the consequences of the policy towards religion and even more so the consequences of political delegation be studied more systematically. This includes how outcomes are shaped by the relationship between policy-making and -implementing authority – a relationship that this article shows may be harder to steer for democratic governments than autocratic ones.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: India, Indonesia, Islam, Hinduism, religion, religious, secularism, bureaucratization, judicialization

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Date posted: August 10, 2013 ; Last revised: April 12, 2014

Suggested Citation

Sezgin, Yuksel and Künkler, Mirjam, Regulation of 'Religion' and the 'Religious': The Politics of Judicialization and Bureaucratization in India and Indonesia (August 9, 2013). Comparative Studies in Society and History, 2014;56(2):448-478 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2308072

Contact Information

Yuksel Sezgin (Contact Author)
Syracuse University ( email )
Syracuse, NY 13244
United States
Mirjam Künkler
Princeton University ( email )
22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States

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