HRAF Global Scholar: Firas Khudi
Title: Graduate student
University Affiliation: Chiang Mai University, Thailand
Research Topic: Anthropology of religion, community structures, dwellings
Firas Khudi is a graduate student in the Social Sciences department at Chiang Mai University (CMU) in Thailand. Firas is investigating cultural richness in dwellings using the eHRAF databases during the one-year HRAF Global Scholars program. eHRAF data enables Firas to better understand the relationships between community structures such as socio-political organizations, economic systems, and religions with categories of dwellings in Indonesian cultures. The Indonesian cultures studied by Firas include Javanese, Mentawai, and Southern Toraja.
Firas is researching how culture and ethnicity shapes the formation of a specific type of house in those communities. This idea came from previous research for his master’s thesis focusing on movement of the urban poor and their sense of belonging to the neighborhood in the social housing of Jakarta. For this research, Frias drew upon other studies emphasizing human and urban place relations. His master’s thesis discusses how community responses to eviction and gentrification by the Jakarta Provincial Government entangle with political dimensions, social connections, and meaning of home as part of place identity in the Kampung Akuarium neighborhood of North Jakarta. In 2021, Firas also conducted independent research to assess the daily anxiety of megapolitan life in the Jakarta Metropolitan Area as part of the Asian Graduate Student Fellowship (AGSF) at National University of Singapore (NUS).
The HRAF Global Scholars program is a catalyst for Firas to extend his understanding of anthropology by examining the interrelation of community structures and dwellings. Anthropologist Clifford Geertz outlined how Javanese culture intertwined with syncretism, Islamism, Buddhism, and Hinduism in the forms of Abangan, Santri, and Priyayi. Abangan is a type of Muslim devotee who still incorporates Islamic practicing with animism, syncretism, and to a certain extent Buddhism among Javanese. In contrast, Santri is more Javanese Muslim orthodox and obedient to Islamic law. Priyayi reflects belief systems of the Javanese royal family who tend to relax on Islamic law but harness their ancestors’ rituals and practices.
Firas seeks to investigate the implications of religious classification to surroundings in the context of homes. For example, Santri Javanese often incorporate Islamic taste and calligraphy into their Javanese houses while simultaneously modifying mosques with Javanese characters. Apart from that, a Java emblem house’s Joglo always faces the north or south direction with consideration for belief systems from Hinduism which signifies a sense of balance within Javanese cosmology. Firas aims to compare perspectives on dwellings within two cultures, e.g., Mentawai and Southern Toraja in Indonesia. The comparison substantiates his analysis by uncovering how other livelihoods and organizations implicate the house structure in the community.
HRAF is honored to welcome Firas Khudi as one of our HRAF Global Scholars for 2023. We wish him continued success with his research.
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