RSIS Seminar by Assistant Professor Ioana Emy Matesan, Department of Government, Wesleyan University
Principled Pragmatists: The Escalation and De-escalation of Islamist Tactics in Egypt and Indonesia
This seminar examines why Islamist groups adopt or abandon violence, and traces the evolution of four organizations: the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), al-Gama’a al-Islamiyah (GI), Darul Islam (DI) and al-Jama’a al-Islamiyah (JI). It is based on my book manuscript titled above. The book’s main contention is that Islamist groups change their tactics and ideologies in response to external pressures and incentives, which are filtered through organizational dynamics and impacted by public norms.
As part of this seminar, I would like to present the theory chapter, and the Indonesian chapters. The chapter on DI draws on archival sources and secondary materials to trace the rise and fall of the rebellion in West Java during the 1950s-60s. It shows how politicisation, a sense of betrayal by the government and a slippery slope of militarisation led to a shift from fighting colonial powers to fighting the Indonesian Republic. The DI rebellion declined once the state gained legitimacy.
The chapter on JI draws on reports, journalistic accounts and interviews with defectors and experts to trace the different stages in the evolution of JI tactics. The analysis shows how internal fragmentation led to an escalation of tactics by radical factions, whereas exit options encouraged disengagement. Yet the chapter also suggests that ambivalent public attitudes towards JI have allowed the movement to persist without having to drastically change its ideology.
About the Speaker
Ioana Emy Matesan is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University. She specializes in comparative politics and politics of the Middle East, with a particular interest in political violence, democratization and Islamist movements. She has conducted National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported fieldwork in Egypt and in Indonesia, which explores why groups adopt or abandon violent tactics, and how tactical and ideological change happens within Islamist movements. Dr Matesan has also researched and published on Hamas and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, new security challenges in the Middle East and North Africa, and the dynamics of authoritarian breakdown and transition periods. She holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from Arizona State University, and a PhD in Political Science from Syracuse University. Her articles have appeared in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Terrorism and Political Violence, Journal of Strategic Security, and Nations and Nationalism.