This paper explores the complex interaction between state-sanctioned Islam and local religious practice in Indonesia's periphery. In 1982 in the "county" of Tinombo, Central Sulawesi, immigrant Reform Muslims convinced the regional government to ban a spirit possession ritual performed by the indigenous Laufe people. Reformists claimed that Laujé spirit mediums were possessed by satanic spirits. Insulted by Reformists' claims that Laujé rites were pagan and they themselves were not Muslims, prominent Laujé went to officials in the government asking to rescind the ban. In their arguments, Laujé borrowed the rhetoric of Reform Islam. The ban was rescinded in 1984. Once the rite was performed again in 1985 the Laujé participants continued using Reformists' categories to define their rite. This paper examines why and how particular Laujé, female spirit mediums and male interpreters, borrowed the rhetoric of Reformist Islam. The participants in the spirit possession rite, each in their own way, used the rhetoric of global Islam not as a "watered down" version of a Great Tradition, but as a vehicle for subtly subverting the premises on which that rhetoric was based.

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 1994

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 1994, Dept. of Religious Studies, University of Pittsburgh. This article first appeared in Journal of Ritual Studies: 8:2 (1994), 1-18.

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