Dr. Arskal Salim has been active in a 3-year (2011-2013) research project led by Professor Baudouin Dupret (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France), which is funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) / French National Research Agency (EUR 209,000). This collaborative research project is known as Andromaque (Anthropologie du droit dans les mondes musulmans africains et asiatiques), and involves 12 leading scholars from different parts of the world. It has an anthropological focus on the property rights of women in Muslim communities in four countries: Morocco, Sudan, India and Indonesia. For Indonesian case studies, Dr. Salim and Professor John Bowen (Washington University at St. Louis) are coordinating fieldwork in two regions of Indonesia, as well as organising a conference in August 2013 in Jakarta. In this project, both Dr. Salim and Professor Bowen explore and analyse legal processes governing access to property in courtroom settings and village processes by focusing on two provinces: Aceh and South Sulawesi. The provinces were chosen not to represent Indonesia as a whole, but to highlight ways in which various actors interpret and make use of legal instruments. The term 'property' includes commodities, capital, and social relations, across a range of 'Islamic contexts' that include marriage, divorce, inheritance, livelihood, gift, compensation payment, and forms of land or property ownership.
One of the foci of this study is how actors work across different levels of political organization. Village leaders take more or less cognizance of the legal implications of their actions, for example by drawing up signed and sealed documents of property transfers or of dispute settlements. They act more or less in the shadow of the law—generally more so the closer they are geographically situated to local courts and to land registration offices. The local Religious Affairs Office (Kantor Urusan Agama), charged with supervising marriages, acts more or less proactively to ensure proper documentation of property transfers at the time of marriage. Judges take more or less cognizance of villager procedures in deciding disputes over the division of property or in awarding payments at divorce. Ulama councils, either the official provincial body or less official gatherings of religious teachers, propose rules for division of property, sometimes for one particular region, and these may or may not shape judicial decisions. It will have become evident that the articulations across these different institutions are complex, varied, and changing, even in one province. They form not a system but a complex set of interpretations, claims, and judgments.