Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2021
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Cornell University
Making and Marketing Halal Tourism in Lombok, Indonesia

Over the past five years, Indonesian government officials, Islamic scholars, and private marketing consultants have sought to brand the relatively small, Muslim-majority island of Lombok as a leading center of halal tourism in order to attract foreign and domestic Muslim travelers. Alternately called “Muslim-friendly” or sharia tourism, halal tourism broadly refers to tourism services provided in explicit accordance with Muslims’ religious practices and presumed desires. Although “halal” (“permissible” in Arabic) is most commonly associated with Islamic dietary restrictions, efforts to standardize the growing halal tourism industry have focused on securing halal certification for hotels and restaurants; providing guests clear access to prayer spaces and mats during excursions; and designing travel itineraries that accommodate particular Islamic virtues such as modesty. As part of the national government’s broader effort to make Indonesia a “Global Halal Hub”, planners have attempted to distinguish Lombok’s industry by establishing new halal tourism villages, university professional programs, and designated “family tourism” areas that prioritize a broader avoidance of Western-style nightlife and alcohol. The initiative also promises to deliver revenue to members of Lombok's main Muslim-majority ethnic group, the Sasak, who have struggled to develop cultural tourism on par with nearby Hindu-majority Bali. My dissertation ethnographically explores the complex set of actors, mechanisms, and motivations animating halal tourism development. Over twelve months of fieldwork in Lombok, I will trace the work of government planners and bureaucrats, state halal auditors, hospitality workers, and small business owners, and ask how these actors make claims to and debate the meaning and the multiple materializations of the island’s halal tourism brand. My research will shed light on the workings of Indonesia’s religious bureaucracy, and contribute to scholarship on the anthropology of religion, religious bureaucracy and statecraft, and social studies of business.