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Dissertation Prize for Mirjam Lücking

German Anthropological Association gives distinction to thesis on the “Arabic world” of Indonesia

Freiburg, Oct 01, 2019

Dissertation Prize for Mirjam Lücking

Mirjam Lücking. Photo: Patrick Seeger

The German Anthropological Association (DGSKA) has bestowed its first Dissertation Prize on Dr. Mirjam Lücking. Lücking, a cultural anthropologis, receives prize money of 1,000 euros for her doctoral thesis, “Indonesians and their Arab World. Guided Mobility among Labour Migrants and Mecca Pilgrims.” Lücking did her PhD at the University of Freiburg’s Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology under Professor Dr. Judith Schlehe. An independent jury evaluated the nominated dissertations and chose three for the award. Regarding the doctoral thesis by Mirjam Lücking, it said: “The thesis is distinguished by a close integration of theory and empirical method which is exemplary and rarely seen in PhD theses! Methodologically, the work impresses with its richness of experience and empathy, as well as with its essential analytical distance and transparent processes.”

Mirjam Lücking's work contributes to the understanding of current changes in Islamic lifestyles in Indonesia and the effects of global mobility. Anthropological data from people's everyday lives provide perspectives that, the author says, are underrepresented in many other studies. The central question is how people in Indonesia experience their Muslim identity in contrast with the Arab world. Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim society in the world. Yet the country is seen as a periphery of the Islamic world and there are constant controversies about an Islamic way of life. Since the transition from autocracy to democracy in 1998, conservative Islamic traditions have spread, sometimes referred to as “Arabization.”

Against this background, Lücking analyses the experiences of Indonesian pilgrims to Mecca and migrant workers. The religious centrality of the Arab world, as the birthplace of Islam and the focus of the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, stands in stark contrast to the exploitation and abuse of Indonesian domestic workers working in private households in the Gulf states. These different experiences create ambivalent images of the Arab world in Indonesia. In addition, Indonesians’ experiences abroad and the associated confrontation with the Arab world strengthen their national identity as Indonesian citizens as well as local identities as members of ethnic groups. Beyond the case study, the work shows to what extent globalized mobility stimulates cultural change or socio-cultural continuity.

The DGSKA’s Dissertation Prize was set up by the association’s general meeting in 2017 and is to be awarded every two years in the future. Outstanding cultural anthropology doctoral theses from anywhere in the German-speaking sphere may be nominated, if they are based on cultural anthropology research or deal with topics from the subject’s history.  The DGSKA was founded in 1929 as the “Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde” and is an association of cultural anthropologists and of persons and institutions interested in cultural anthropology. In 2017 it was renamed the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie/ German Anthropological Association at its biennial conference in Berlin. It currently has 780 members.


Dr. Mirjam Lücking
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Professor Dr. Judith Schlehe
Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology
University of Freiburg
Phone: 0761/203-3580