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Nur Amali Ibrahim

Assistant Professor
SY 201. (812) 855-3532

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., New York University, 2011
  • B.A. (First Class Honors), National University of Singapore, 2001

Research Topics

  • Anthropology of Islam
  • Political anthropology
  • Social movements
  • Popular culture
  • Southeast Asia

Research Summary

I am an anthropologist of religion and politics who teaches in the Department of International Studies and the Department of Religious Studies. I recently completed a book project examining novel and unexpected ways of being Muslim, where religious dispositions are achieved through techniques that have little or no precedent in classical Islamic texts or concepts. The book is an ethnographic account of Indonesia, where progressive Muslims are behaving impiously and reading humanistic and social scientific books in order to rethink religion, while conservative Islamists are using Western techniques of accounting and self-help to develop religious puritanism. It is partly a story about Indonesia, where the deposal of President Suharto's authoritarian New Order regime in 1998 has opened up the imaginative terrain allowing these types of religious beliefs and practices to emerge. At the same time, I would suggest that the Indonesian case study, which occurs in a heightened and volatile political context, brings into sharper relief processes that are happening in ordinary Muslim life everywhere. To be a practitioner of their religion, Muslims draw on and are inspired by not only their holy scriptures, but also the non-traditional ideas and practices that circulate in their society, which importantly include those that originate in the West. In the contemporary political discourse where Muslims are often portrayed as uncompromising and adversarial to the West and where bans and walls are deemed necessary to keep them out, this story about flexible and creative Muslims is an important one to tell.

Representative Publications


Improvisational Islam: Indonesian Youths in a Time of Possibility. Forthcoming, fall-winter 2018, Cornell University Press.


Homophobic Muslims: Emerging Trends in Multireligious Singapore. 2016. Comparative Studies in Society and History. 58(4):955-981.

Questioning the New Secularism of the West: A commentary on Elizabeth Hurd’s “Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion.” 2017. Journal of Politics, Religion and Ideology. 18(1):107-109.

Accounting for the Soul: Religious Improvisation in Democratic Indonesia. Forthcoming, summer 2018, Anthropological Quarterly.

Everyday Authoritarianism: A Political Anthropology of Singapore. Forthcoming, 2018, Critical Asian Studies.

Other Writings

The Problem with the “Moderate Muslim” Label. 2015. Spring Forum, Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics, and Society, Indiana University.


Trustees Teaching Award, Indiana University, 2017
New Frontiers Experimentation Fellowship, Indiana University, 2017
Academy Scholar, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Harvard University, 2011
Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship, New York University, 2010
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, 2008
International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Social Science Research Council, 2008
Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, National Science Foundation, 2008
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Predoctoral Fellowship, New York University, 2007
Annette Weiner Predoctoral Fellowship, New York University, 2007
Henry M. MacCracken Fellowship, New York University, 2004-2008
Vice Chancellor’s List, National University of Singapore, 2001
Dean’s List, National University of Singapore, 1998-2001

Courses Recently Taught

INTL-I 206 Identity and Conflict
INTL-I 306 Neoliberalism in Crisis
INTL-I 422 Youth and Politics
REL-A 270 Introduction to Islam
REL-C 350 Islam in America
REL-D 485 Religion and Media