NIAS Wednesday Discussion-Dr. Aleena Sebastian will speak on “The Matrilineal Minangkabau Muslims of West Sumatra-Reflections from Preliminary Fieldwork in West Sumatra, Indonesia”

NIAS Wednesday Discussion



Topic:              The Matrilineal Minangkabau Muslims of West Sumatra:

Reflections from Preliminary Fieldwork in West Sumatra, Indonesia


Speaker:          Aleena Sebastian

Assistant Professor, Urban and Mobility Studies Programme, NIAS


Chairperson:   Anindya Sinha

                        Professor, Animal Behaviour and Cognition Programme, NIAS


Date:               04 August 2021 


Time:               4.00 PM 


Meeting Link  Click here to join the meeting

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Abstract: Despite the challenges posed by a multitude of factors at various junctures in the history of West Sumatra, matrilineal practices continue to constitute an important aspect of the social organisation among the Minangkabau Muslims of West Sumatra. The Dutch colonial rule since the 17th century and the emergence of Islamic reformist trends in the early 19th and 20th century posed challenges to the matrilineal social organization through the codification of customary laws, introduction of the money economy, and calling into question the inheritance in the female line. Contestations were also raised by the nationalist leaders in the post-colonial period. The existence of multiple customary practices in Indonesia was perceived by them as a hindrance to the creation of uniform nationhood. In the recent past, the validity of matrilineal inheritance and coparcenary property rights have come to be questioned under the patrilineal Javanese-led central ministry. The legal system of the central government entails within it, the legal vestige of colonial past and a shift towards the creation of uniform patrilineal law in Indonesia. My preliminary fieldwork in the villages of Solok and Pariaman, and the coastal town of Padang in West Sumatra explores how kinship ties are sustained in recent times with elements of change and continuity. These practices need to be understood as a historically specific negotiation between custom, religion, and state.


About the speaker:  Dr. Aleena Sebastian is an Assistant Professor in the Urban and Mobility Studies Programme at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore. Her areas of research interest include kinship and gender relations in South and Southeast Asia, and health care marginality among sexual gender minorities in India and its social policy implications.   


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For further info, please contact Prof Anindya Sinha [] or Shri K S Rama Krishna [], Coordinators of the NIAS Wednesday Discussion Meetings. 


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Wednesday, August 4, 2021