Dr Chris Chaplin

Dr Chris Chaplin

Visiting fellow

Department of Anthropology

English, Indonesian, Malay
Key Expertise
Maritime Southeast Asia; Indonesia

About me

Chris is a visiting fellow at the Department of Anthropology and Assistant Professorial Research Fellow in the Religion and Global Society Research Unit based at the LSE. His research explores the convergence between global Islamic doctrines and local understandings of piety and faith, and how these come to inform civic values, concepts of religious and political solidarity, and social activism within Southeast Asia.

From a methodological and conceptual standpoint, Chris is interested in investigating how reflexive and diffractive approaches to ethnography can provide a transformative space through which to create new dialogues between anthropological practice and religious doctrines.

He recently published the book Salafism and the State: Islamic Activism and National Identity in Indonesia (2021), which provides an ethnographic examination of the often misunderstood Salafi Islamic movement. The book explores the social, moral, and pedagogical dynamics behind Salafism’s gaining popularity amongst Indonesian youth.  As it explains, Salafi activists strive to create a religious subjectivity that blends global religious doctrine with locally orientated ideas of religious praxis, consumerism, and postcolonial modernity. While this weaving of modern aspiration and religious tradition is at the heart of the Salafi appeal, it ultimately leads to a multifarious and fractured idea of what ‘being Salafi’ ultimately means.  

Chris’ current research is based at the LSE’s Religion and Global Society research unit where he seeks to explore the creation of plural religious spaces in Indonesia and the UK. Chris is particularly interested in the affective geographies that define religious and non-religious encounters, and what these spatial dynamics may tell us about the creation of interconnected but diverse interpretations of plurality, and the emotive spiritual experiences behind them.

Chris has spent over a decade working in Southeast Asia and speaks fluent Indonesian. He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge, and has worked for a variety of academic, government and non-governmental bodies. This includes working as a Researcher for the Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) at the University of Leiden, and as a Fellow at the LSE’s Department of Methodology.

Expertise Details

Islam; Citizenship; Social Movements; Solidarity; Human Rights; Political Identities; Southeast Asian International Politics.

Selected publications


2021. Salafism and the State: Islamic Activism and National Identity in Contemporary Indonesia. Copenhagen. NIAS Press


2020. Communal Salafi Learning and the Creation of an Islamic Selfhood: Examining Religious Boundaries through Ethnographic Encounters in Indonesia. Ethnography, Vol 21, Is 1, pp 113-132

2018. Salafi Islamic Piety as Civic Activism: Wahdah Islamiyah and Differentiated Citizenship in Indonesia. Citizenship Studies, Vol 22, Is 2, pp 208-223

2018. Salafi Activism and the Promotion of a Modern Muslim Identity: Evolving Mediums of Da’wa amongst Yogyakartan University Students. South East Asia Research, Vol 26, Is 1, pp 3-20

2018. Political Protests, Global Islam and National Activism: Deciphering the Motivations behind Indonesia’s ‘Conservative Turn’. Middle East Institute

2014. Imagining the Land of the Two Holy Mosques: The Social and Doctrinal Importance of Saudi Arabia in Indonesian Salafi DiscourseThe Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies 7-2, pp 217 – 235

Book Chapters

2022. Islam, Demokrasi dan Penciptaan Identitas Mayoritas Muslim di Indonesia pada Abad ke-21. In Budiatri, Wijayanto & Wiratraman (Eds) Demokrasi tanpa Demos: Refleksi 100 Ilmuwan Sosial Politik tentang Kemunduran Demokrasi di Indonesia, Jakarta. LP3ES

2021. Conflict and Peace in Aceh: A Case Study of Conflict Resolution. In Edbrooke, M (Ed) Handbook on the Prevention and Resolution of Self-Determination Conflict, Princeton. Princeton University Press

2019. Kebajikan Islam Salafi sebagai Aktivisme Masyarakat: Wahdah Islamiyah dan   Kewarganegaraan Terdiferensiasi di Indonesia. In Berenschot W & Van Klinken, G (Eds), Citizenship in Indonesia: Pejuangan Atas Hak, Identias, dan Partisipasi. Jakarta. Pustaka Obor.

2015. Islamic Social Movement in post-Suharto Indonesia: Life Politics, Religious Authority and the Salafiyya. In Petru T (Ed), Graffiti, Converts and Vigilantes: Islam Outside the Mainstream in Maritime Southeast AsiaVienna: Caesar Press