‘On Critique and the Subject’: A/Prof. Ismail Fajrie Alatas' Lecture at UIII

May 15, 2024

Contributor: Atia Adjani | Editor: Supriyono

UIII, DEPOK - The Faculty of Islamic Studies at Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia (UIII) organized a public lecture on May 8, 2024, featuring Associate Professor Ismail Fajrie Alatas, a renowned scholar from New York University specializing in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and History. His lecture clarified the often-confused concepts of research objects and subjects.

In the lecture held in Faculty A’s Theater Room, Associate Professor Alatas encouraged the audience to reconsider traditional critiques in ethnographic studies, particularly the tendency that certain researchers have in considering humans as objects rather than subjects. 

In his discussion, Associate Professor Alatas emphasized that in ethnographic research, there is a common misconception that research subjects are merely objects of study. This perspective is "inappropriate," he argued, because these subjects are supposed to be the teachers from whom researchers learn. 

“Ethnography is an intersubjective experience. The approach is not about the meeting of researchers as subjects and the humans as objects being researched. Good ethnographers do not examine individuals or communities; they learn from them,” A/Prof. Alatas explained. 

He also criticized the careless application of theories as frameworks by some researchers. “If the approach is ‘I use theory A to explain [phenomenon] B,’ it's better to rethink that approach. How can a single theory explain the complexities of the [whole] world?” he questioned. 

Associate Professor Alatas emphasized that the ultimate outcome of ethnographic research should not merely be a published book, but the self-transformation of the researcher through the process of learning.

UIII is a research-based university dedicated to training future scholars in research methodologies. The insights from Associate Professor Ismail Fajrie Alatas are crucial in shaping the ethical perspectives necessary for UIII students in their research endeavors.