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Pop preachers and counter-terror culture: contesting terrorism through social media and popular culture in Indonesia

VENI project Leonie Schmidt (2016-2019)

In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country and a key front in the global ‘war on terror’, an Islamic ‘counter-terror culture’ has emerged that negotiates, contests and potentially limits Islamic radicalisation and terrorism. In response to the threat of domestic, regional and global terrorism, Indonesian pop prophets, Islamic self-help gurus, blockbuster movies and catchy pop tunes preach religious moderation. They complement the counter-terror media campaigns of Indonesian Twitter-savvy moderate Islamic organisations and other civil society actors. This project aims to analyse how in Indonesia social media and popular culture function as tools of governmentality that can help to contest and counter Islamic radicalisation and terrorism. Through analysing the institutional, textual, and consumption practices of Indonesian ‘counter-terror culture’ with a multi-method approach, this project investigates the potential and position of popular culture and social media in the on-going struggle against militant Islam and its virulent offshoot – terrorism. Through scrutinising the tactics and workings of Indonesian counter-terror culture, this project will formulate a model of cultural counter-terrorism strategies that will be highly relevant to Indonesia, but also to other cultural contexts.