Publications

2008

• "The Islamist Threat in Southeast Asia: Much Ado About Nothing?," Asian Affairs, Volume 39, Number 3 (November 2008), pp. 339-351.

• "Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy Revisited: Colonial State and Chinese Immigrant in the Making of Modern Southeast Asia," Comparative Politics, Volume 40, Number 3 (January 2008), pp. 127-147.

• "Jihad and the Specter of Transnational Islam in Southeast Asia: A Comparative Historical Perspective," in Eric Tagliacozzo (ed.), Southeast Asia and the Middle East: Islam, Movement, and the Longue Durée (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), pp. 275-318.

• "The Manifold Meanings of Displacement: Explaining Inter-Religious Violence in Indonesia, 1999-2001," in Eva-Lotta E. Hedman (ed.), Conflict, Violence, and Displacement in Indonesia (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 2008), pp. 29-59.

2007

The Islamist Threat in South East Asia

The Islamist Threat in Southeast Asia: A Reassessment (Washington, D.C.: East-West Center Washington, 2007). Buy Book

In recent years, a steady stream of reportage and commentary has spotlighted a dangerous "Islamist threat" in Southeast Asia. This study, by contrast, offers a very different account. In descriptive terms, this study suggests that such an alarmist picture is highly overdrawn, and it traces instead a pattern of marked decline, demobilization, and disentanglement from state power in recent years for Islamist forces in Southeast Asia. This trend is evident both in the disappointments experienced in recent years by previously ascendant Islamist forces in Indonesia and Malaysia, and in the diminished position of Muslim power brokers in southern Thailand and the Philippines after more than a decade of cooperation with non-Muslim politicians in Manila and Bangkok. In explanatory terms, moreover, this study shows the significance of social and political context. A fuller appreciation of aggression by anti-Islamists and non-Muslims, and of the insecurity, weakness, and fractiousness of Islamist forces themselves, helps to explain the nature, extent, and limitations of Islamist violence, aggression, and assertiveness. This overarching alternative framework not only provides a very different explanation for the "Islamist threat" in Southeast Asia, but also suggests very different policy implications from those offered by specialists on terrorism working on the region.

This is the thirty-seventh publication in Policy Studies, a peer-reviewed East-West Center Washington series that presents scholarly analysis of key contemporary domestic and international political, economic, and strategic issues affecting Asia in a policy relevant manner.

• "It's Not Getting Worse: Terrorism is Declining in Asia," Global Asia, Volume 2, Number 3 (November 2007), pp. 41-49. Read Article

• "From Russia With Love?," Indonesia, Volume 84 (October 2007), pp. 115-126. Read Article

• "On the 'Anxiety of Incompleteness': A Post-Structuralist Approach to Religious Violence in Indonesia," South East Asia Research, Volume 15, Number 2 (July 2007), pp. 133-212. Read Article
Copyright © 2007 SOAS. Reproduced by permission of IP Publishing Ltd.

Indonesia: Minorities, Migrant Workers, Refugees, and the New Citizenship Law (Geneva: United Nations High Commission for Refugees, March 2007). Read Report

2006

Riots, Pogroms, Jihad

Riots, Pogroms, Jihad: Religious Violence in Indonesia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006). Buy Book

In October 2002 a bomb blast in a Balinese nightclub killed more than two hundred people, many of them young Australian tourists. This event and subsequent attacks on foreign targets in Bali and Jakarta in 2003, 2004, and 2005 brought Indonesia into the global media spotlight as a site of Islamist terrorist violence. Yet the complexities of political and religious struggles in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, remain little known and poorly understood in the West.

In Riots, Pogroms, Jihad, John T. Sidel situates these terrorist bombings and other "jihadist" activities in Indonesia against the backdrop of earlier episodes of religious violence in the country, including religious riots in provincial towns and cities in 1995-1997, the May 1998 riots in Jakarta, and interreligious pogroms in 1999-2001. Sidel's close account of these episodes of religious violence in Indonesia draws on a wide range of documentary, ethnographic, and journalistic materials. Sidel chronicles these episodes of violence and explains the overall pattern of change in religious violence over a ten-year period in terms of the broader discursive, political, and sociological contexts in which they unfolded.

Successive shifts in the incidence of violence-its forms, locations, targets, perpetrators, mobilizational processes, and outcomes-correspond, Sidel suggests, to related shifts in the very structures of religious authority and identity in Indonesia during this period. He interprets the most recent "jihadist" violence as a reflection of the post-1998 decline of Islam as a banner for unifying and mobilizing Muslims in Indonesian politics and society. Sidel concludes this book by reflecting on the broader implications of the pattern observed in Indonesia both for understanding Islamic terrorism in particular and for analyzing religious violence in all its varieties.

"John T. Sidel has written an original, wise, and lasting book unlike the vast majority of breathless, ambulance-chasing, and shallow studies of ethnic and religious violence. If you are more interested in the deep historical and structural causes of political violence — in the accumulation of social dynamite — rather than the particular match that lights the fuse, then, this is the only book you'll need to understand contemporary Indonesia." — James C. Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University

"John T. Sidel's method and conclusions — and, indeed, the very aims of his analysis—are pathbreaking. Riots, Pogroms, Jihad is destined to become one of the most important works in Indonesian studies of the post-Suharto period. It will be critical to scholars and policymakers eager to understand the dynamics of Indonesian politics and society. Political scientists, historians, and anthropologists working outside of Southeast Asia will also find in this book a fruitful guide to developing new ways of thinking about religion and violence elsewhere in the world." — Danilyn Rutherford, University of Chicago

"Beneath the many phenomena of violence that John T. Sidel has amply researched, he rightly discerns and repeatedly describes a key role for anxieties about religious identity." — Theodore Friend, Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia

"This is an important and original book that compares diverse contexts and manifestations of religious violence across Indonesia. Riots, Pogroms, Jihad is strongly grounded in empirical evidence and the author's deep familiarity with Indonesia." — Nancy Lee Peluso, University of California, Berkeley

2005

• "Bossism and Democracy in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia: Towards an Alternative Framework for the Study of 'Local Strongmen'," in John Harris, Kristian Stokke, and Olle Tornquist (eds.), Politicising Democracy: Local Politics and Democratisation in Developing Countries (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 51-74.

2003

• "Other Schools, Other Pilgrimages, Other Dreams: The Making and Unmaking of 'Jihad' in Southeast Asia," in James Siegel and Audrey Kahin (eds.), Southeast Asia over Three Generations: Essays Presented to Benedict R. O'G. Anderson (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 2003), pp. 347-382.

2002

Indonesia: Internal and External Displacement, November 2001 - August 2002 (Geneva: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, August 2002). Read Report

2001

• "Response to Ileto: Or, Why I Am Not an Orientalist," Philippine Journal of Political Science, Volume 23, Number 1 (March 2001), pp. 109-122.

• "'It Takes a Madrasah'?: Habermas Meets Bourdieu in Indonesia," South East Asia Research, Volume 9, Number 1 (March 2001), pp. 109-122. Read Article

• "Riots, Church Burnings, Conspiracies: The Moral Economy of the Indonesian Crowd in the Late Twentieth Century," in Ingrid Wessel and Georgia Wimhofer (eds.), Violence in Indonesia (Hamburg: Abera Verlag, 2001), pp. 64-81.

Indonesia: The Limits of Democratization and Decentralization, January 2000 – October 2001 (Geneva: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, October 2001). Read Report

2000

Philippine Politics and Society

Philippine Politics and Society in the Twentieth Century: Colonial Legacies, Post-Colonial Trajectories (London: Routledge, 2000). Co-authored with Eva-Lotta Hedman. Buy Book

Organized as a set of inter-related thematic essays on the Philippines rather than a chronological account of the country's history, this book addresses key topics which will be of interest to the academic and non-academic reader. These themes include trends in national-level and local politics, the role of ethnic-Chinese capital in the Philippine economy, nationalism and popular culture, and various forms of political violence and extra-electoral contestation. Drawing on a wide variety of primary and secondary sources, as well as over a decade of research and work in the area, Eva-Lotta Hedman and John Sidel provide an invaluable overview of the contemporary and historical cene of a much misunderstood part of Southeast Asia.

• "Filipino Gangsters in Film, Legend, and History: Two Biographical Case Studies from Cebu," in Alfred W. McCoy (ed.), Lives at the Margin: Biographies of Filipinos Obscure, Ordinary, and Heroic (Madison: University of Wisconsin Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 2000), pp. 149-191.

1999

Capital, Coercion and Crime

Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999). Buy Book

This book focuses on local bossism, a common political phenomenon where local power brokers achieve monopolistic control over an area's coercive and economic resources. Examples of bossism include Old Corruption in eighteenth-century England, urban political machines in the United States, caciques in Latin America, the Mafia in Southern Italy, and today's gangster politicians in such countries as India, Russia, and Thailand.

For many years, the entrenchment of numerous provincial warlords and political clans has made the Philippines a striking case of local bossism. Yet writings on Filipino political culture and patron-client relations have ignored the role of coercion in shaping electoral competition and social relations. Portrayals of a "weak state" captured by a landed oligarchy have similarly neglected the enduring institutional legacies of American colonial rule and the importance of state resources for the accumulation of wealth and power in the Philippines.

The author, by contrast, argues that the roots of bossism in the Philippines lie in the inauguration of formal democratic institutions at a relatively early stage of capitalist development. Poverty and insecurity leave many voters vulnerable to clientelist, coercive, and financial pressure, and the state's central role in capital accumulation provides the basis for local bosses' economic empires and political machines. These contradictions have encouraged bossism in the Philippines, as well as in other countries.

The book elaborates these arguments through case studies of bosses in two Philippine provinces, Cavite and Cebu. The contrast between single-generation gangster politicians in Cavite and enduring commercial dynasties in Cebu reveals variation in the forms of bossism that reflect variations in the local political economies of the two provinces. Comparisons between bosses over successive historical periods highlight the gradual transformation of bossism through capitalist development. In sum, Capital, Coercion, and Crime provides a comparative historical analysis of bossism, drawing conclusions of great interest not only to scholars of Southeast Asia but to students of comparative politics as well.

"This book is certainly a contribution to the literature on Philippine politics, comparative politics, and state-society relations. It builds on, while going significantly beyond, what other scholars have done and lays out a reasoned argument that future scholarship will have to engage about how public offices are won and lost and for whose benefit." — The Journal of Asian Studies

"...Sidel has written a superb and pioneering analysis that defines the future course for studies of local elites—not only in the Philippines but elsewhere as well." — Paul D. Hutchcroft, University of Wisconsin, Madison

"The Usual Suspects: Nardong Putik, Don Pepe Oyson, and Robin Hood," in Vicente L. Rafael (ed.), Figures of Criminality in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Colonial Vietnam (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 1999), pp. 70-94.

Indonesia Update: Trends Toward Consolidation, Threats of Disintegration (Geneva: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, December 1999). Read Report

1998

• "Macet Total: Logics of Circulation and Accumulation in the Demise of Indonesia's New Order," Indonesia, Volume 66 (October 1998), pp. 159-195. Read Article

• "Take the Money and Run?: 'Personality' Politics in the Post-Marcos Philippines," Public Policy, Volume II, Number 3 (July – September 1998), pp. 27-38.

• "The Underside of Progress: Land, Labor, and Violence in Two Philippine Growth Zones," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Volume 30, Number 1 (Jan.-March 1998), pp. 3-12.

• "Murder Inc., Cavite: Capitalist Development and Political Gangsterism in a Philippine Province," in Carl Trocki (ed.), Gangsters, Democracy, and the State in Southeast Asia (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 1998), pp. 55-80.

Indonesia: Transition and its Discontents, July – November 1998 (Geneva: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, December 1998). Read Report

Indonesia: Crisis and Transition, Catastrophe and Progress (Geneva: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, June 1998). Read Report

Indonesia: Economic, Social, and Political Dimensions of the Current Crisis in Indonesia (Geneva: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, April 1998). Read Report

1997

• "Philippine Politics in Town, District, and Province: Bossism in Cavite and Cebu," Journal of Asian Studies, Volume 56, Number 4 (November 1997), pp. 947-966. Read Article

• "Dark Play: Notes on a Balinese Massacre," Indonesia, Volume 63 (April 1997), pp. 187-194. Read Article

• "Rewind, Pause, Fast Forward: Viewing the Ongoing Political Transition in Indonesia 1996-1997," European Institute for Asian Studies Briefing Paper No. 97/01 (Brussels: EIAS, March 1997).

1996

• "Siam and Its Twin?: Democratisation and Bossism in Contemporary Thailand and the Philippines," Institute of Development Studies Bulletin, Volume 27, Number 2 (April 1996), pp. 36-52

1995

• "On The Waterfront: Labour Racketeering in the Port of Cebu," South East Asia Research, Volume 3, Number 1 (March 1995), pp. 3-17.

• "The Philippines: The Languages of Legitimation," in Muthiah Alagappa (ed.), Political Legitimacy In Southeast Asia: The Quest for Moral Authority (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), pp. 136-169.

1993

• "Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man: Justiniano Montano and Failed Dynasty Building in Cavite 1935-1972," in Alfred W. McCoy (ed.), An Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines (Madison: University of Wisconsin Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1993), pp. 109-161.