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Forbidden intimacies: Christian–Muslim intermarriage in East Kalimantan, Indonesia

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ABSTRACT

As a disadvantaged minority, Dayaks have turned to Christianity as a way to maintain their ethnic identity in the face of threats from their Muslim neighbors. Given Indonesian state policies' compelling conversion in the case of interfaith marriage, most anthropological analyses would attribute the anguish Christian Dayaks experience over such marriages to the threat it poses to their community-building efforts. But Dayaks themselves anchor their concerns about intermarriage in religious and familial obligations, not in the maintenance of collective religious and ethnic identities. Drawing on the work of Fredrik Barth, I argue that understanding the nature of interfaith marriage and the fears it arouses requires anthropologists to consider not only the macrolevel of state policies and the median level of collective identities but also the more intimate emotional and experiential level of the family and the individual. [marriage, Indonesia, Islam, Christianity, ethnicity]

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