University of Pittsburgh
September 18, 2008

The University of Pittsburgh to Present the Interdisciplinary Conference Islam and Popular Culture in Indonesia and Malaysia

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH- Indonesia and Malaysia are home to approximately one-fifth of the world's Muslim population, yet they are often overlooked or misrepresented in the media's portrayal of Islam. Ideas, sounds, images, and gestures associated with Islam abound in contemporary popular cultural forms, including in film, music, television, radio, comics, fashion, magazines, and cyber-culture. The free public Oct. 10-12 conference, Islam and Popular Culture in Indonesia and Malaysia, will address the relationship between Islam and popular culture in the Malay world.

In the last two decades, forms of Islam represented in the mass-media-targeted largely to urbanized youth-have played a key role in the Islamisation of Indonesia and Malaysia. These forms and the accompanying circulation, marketing, and practice of Islamic ideals will be the focus of the conference.

The conference will address issues concerning the historical and social conditions that have contributed to popular culture in the Malay world, as well as the forms Islam takes in popular culture and the meanings audience derive from these representations. Central to these issues is the role mass media plays in establishing Muslim identities, especially among youth; defining publics according to gender and class; promoting certain kinds of Islamic practices and values while suppressing others; creating alternative media spaces; and shaping perceptions of Islam-both within and outside the Malay world-among non-Muslims. Particularly important to the conference is the relationship between Islam and Malay identity, vis-à-vis long-standing debates about language, culture, race, and ethnicity in the Malay world.

The conference is cosponsored by Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences, Office of the Provost, University Center for International Studies, Global Studies Program, Asian Studies Center, Indo-Pacific Council, Department of Music, Women's Studies Program, Department of Anthropology, Film Studies Program, Department of English, Cultural Studies Program, and the Consortium for Education Resources on Islamic Studies as well as Ohio University's Center for Southeast Asian Studies and Falcon Interactive, Indonesia.

The conference includes a film screening and concert. "Gubra" ("Anxiety"), directed by Yasmin Ahmad, 2006, will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10, in the Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., Oakland. The concert, Rock Meets Islam in Indonesia, featuring Rhoma Irama and Soneta, with Pittsburgh's own Dangdut Cowboys, begins at 8 p.m. Oct. 11 in the Bellefield Auditorium, 315 S. Bellefield Ave., Oakland. Both events are free and open to the public, however, space is limited.

For the full program, speaker profiles, and suggested reading, visit the Asian Studies Center's conference Web site at

For more information, contact conference organizer Andrew Weintraub, Pitt associate professor of music, at 412-624-4184 and