A tale of two courts

Judicial transformation and the rise of a corporate Islamic governmentality in Malaysia

by MIchael G. Peletz

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Malaysia's Islamic judiciary has undergone noteworthy transformations in recent decades, especially in the new millennium. Two distinct periods of ethnographic observation in Malaysia, separated by a quarter of a century, afford comparative-historical perspectives on the same (but ultimately very different) Islamic court and on an illustrative case heard there in 2012. Building on Pierre Bourdieu's work on juridical fields, these perspectives allow us to contextualize and thus better understand various discourses concerning Islamic law (syariah), Islamization, bureaucratization, and corporatization encountered today in different quarters of Malaysian society and globally. They also allow for a clear view of how these discourses and the social forces relevant to them play out on the ground, in the context of an increasingly corporate Islamic governmentality.