I hold a PhD in social anthropology from the Australian National University (ANU) and am appointed as an Adjunct Associate Professor at the College of Asia and Pacific, the Australian National University.
I have been working on inter-linked research themes, religion and regional identity (Islam), civil society and social change in Asia, especially Indonesia. Poverty affects approximately 11% of the Indonesian population in Indonesia and how to achieve equitable socio-economic development in regional Indonesia and especially among marginalised social groups is a significant policy agenda. This can be addressed with the development of civil society movements, social enterprises, and social and development policies.
My current research projects are as follows:
- Social Development Policies in Asia: Crowd Funding, Social Enterprises, and Socially Engaged Religion (Islamic philanthropic NGOs and Islamic micro-financing for poverty reduction and job creation)
- Muslim Women and Entrepreneurship in Indonesia. How Islamic values could shape and contest Muslim womanhood and influence them to become take an active role in economy may hold a key for the potential growth of small businesses. The majority of job opportunities in Indonesia exist in small businesses, often run by women.
- Disaster Relief and Community Resilience of the Asian Pacific Region. Currently I am conducting research on the post-disaster economic and community resilience in Indonesia (the Merapi volcano disasters) and the Tohoku Tsunami earthquake in Japan. I am exploring how civil society organisations and religious values play a role in rebuilding community resilience and assisting economic livelihood recovery.
I have built strong ties with Indonesia through my research and teaching. My research collaborative partnerships include partners from the State Islamic University Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta, The University of Indonesia, Gadjah Mada University and the Airlangga University. I have been contributing the directions of Islamic studies by offering anthropological perspectives of Islamic studies. As such I am serving on the editorial board for the Asia Pacific Anthropology and Studia Islamika.
My earlier research was an ethnographic study of Islam Nusantara or traditional ways of practising islam and their identify construction in search of a better life among the Gumay of South Sumatra in Indonesia. My monograph titled Kacang Tak Lupa Kulitnya: Identitas Gumay, Islam, dan Merantau di Sumatra Selatan (The Nut Cannot Forget Its Shell) has been published ,and my second book, Penggiat Bisnis Syariah di Indonesia: Muslimah, Kewirausahaan dan Pemperdaayan Masyarakat (Indonesian Syariah Business Activists: Muslim Women, Entrepreneurship and Community Empowerment), Republika, Jakarta is on its way.
Recent Research Grants and International Engagements
- The Ford Foundation, Indonesia (2018-2020, Muslim Women's Economic Empowerment USD 200,000) in partnership with UIN Jakarta.
- UNSW Indonesia Collaborative Research Scheme (2017 $10,000)
- University of Gadjah Mada, Department of Sociology, FISIP, International Collaborator on Islamic Social Entrepreneurship (2016)
- UNSW Faculty Research Silver Start Grant (Islamic Conservatism and Women in Indonesian Economy, 2015-2016, $20,000)
- The ANU AusAID Indonesian Project Research Grant (with Dr P.Ismalina, UGM). Project title: Building Community Resilience after the Merapi Volcano Disaster, A Case study of State and Private Scheme for Economic Livelihood Recovery Initiatives in Central Java (2013-2014, $15,000.)
- UNSW Canberra Research Training Scholarship Scheme (to recruit an excellent PhD student under her supervision (with D. Lovell as a co-supervisor). 3-year scholarship with full fees and tuition Project title: The Role of Civil society in Social Development in Contemporary Indonesia (2014-2016, $213,000).
- UNSW Canberra Special Research Grant, The Role of Civil Society in Enhancing Resilience in the Tohoku Disaster, Japan (2013-2014, $5,630)
- The Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, academy workshop grant ($7,500, 2010-2011) with Prof. Peter Saunders (SPRC, UNSW)
- Faith and Social Development in Contemporary Indonesia, Special Research Grant, UNSW, ($10,000, 2010-2011)
- Civil Society Responses to Social Inequality and Natural Disasters in Japan after the 1990s, HASS Research Grant ($5,000, 2011)
- Rector-funded Visiting Fellowship for Dr Amelia Fauzia from the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, Jakarta, Indonesia (2011)
- Capacity Building for the Islamic Microfinance Providers for the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises in Indonesia with Prof. Kacung Marijan, Australia Indonesia Governance Research Partnership ($60,000, 2008-2009)
- Creating a New Indonesia: Region and Religion as Agents of Change, Faculty Research Grant (Silver Star Grant), UNSW ($20,000, 2008-2009)
Recent Keynote Addresses
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2018 International Conference on Reflection on Islamic Studies, Development and Empowerment in Indonesia: Opportunities, Recent Development and Challenges, State Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN) Solo.
2017 ‘Utilization of Social, Cultural, and Art Assets to Improve the Quality of Life’. The 5th International Conference on Educational Research and Innovation (ICERI) 2017 in Yogyakarta, Optimizing Educational Research Findings to Improve the Quality of Life. Organised by the Ministry of Research and Technology and Higher Education, and Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
2017 International Conference, ‘Religion, Microfinace and Community Empowerment (ICOFIN) 2017, organised by the Deparment of Islamic Banking and Economics,Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta, and University Teknikal Malaysia Melaka.
2016 ‘The Development of Social Entrepreneurship in Islamic Organization through Islamic Business Practice and Social Empowerment’, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, The University of Gadjah Mada, Indonesia.
2016 ‘The Contribution of Indonesian Islam to the World Civilisation: A Socio-Economic Development Perspective, W 16th Annual Internal Conference on Islamic Studies (AICIS) organised by The Ministry of Religious Affairs, The Republic of Indonesia at IAIN, Raden Intan Bandar Lampung Indonesia.
HDR Supervision (Southeast Asian Social Inquiry)
I enjoy academic engagements with my research students. We work closely for publications and conference presentations. Our reserach cluster focuses on the topics of Islam, globalisation, socially-engaged religion, civil society and socio-economic develpment (microfinance, minority integration, disaster recovery) in contemporary Indonesia. Potential candidates are encouraged to contact me with a short proposal.
Recently completed international PhD students:
Dr Jaebong Park (UNSW funded, 2008 graduated),
Dr Najib Kailani (UNSW funded, 2015 graduated)
Dr Falikul Isbah (UNSW funded, 2016 graduated)
Dr Riza Nurdin (UNSW funded, disaster resilience civil society development, 2018 graduation)
Current HDR students in Southeast Asian Social Inquiry working on the issue of Islam and socio-economic development in Indonesia and other Muslim dominant countries are as below:
Mr Bhirawa Anoraga (PhD Indonesian Government Scholarship LPDP funded, crowd funding and civil society movements)
Mr Ajie Saksono (PhD Indonesian Government Scholarship LPDP funded, rural poverty reduction and community empowerment)
Ms Farhat Hamid (Masters, Reducing gender gap in education in Muslim Countries)
Mr Juel Rana Kutub (PhD, UNSW funded, disaster resilience and gender empowerment in Bangladesh)
Dr Sakai's teaching philosophy is to transfer passion for knowledge. She values students' active learning and engagement in class and is among an approved peer teaching reviewer at UNSW Canberra.
- Development Policies and Social Contexts in Contemporary Indonesia: (a non-language course on policy analysis and development)
- Islam and the Challenges of Modernity (a non-language course on Islam in Southeast Asia)
- All levels of Indonesian Language and Culture courses
- Research Projects (CDF undergraduate and IPS Masters Course Work) on the issues of Islam, radicalism, interfaith issues in Indonesia
Consulting / Professional Activities
- I have been an appointed member for the Australia Awards Indonesia ( funded by the Australian government) Scholarship Selection Board since 2013
- I served as the Secretary for the Committee for the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) Presidents’ Prize for the Best Asian Studies Thesis in Australian universities for three years (2007-2009).
- I have conducted consultancy work for the Attorney General’s office on the rise of Islamism in local politics of Indonesia.
- I have been serving as an Expert Assessor of International Standing for the Australian Research Council since 2005.
- I was a member of the Academic Women in Leadership (AWIL) at UNSW in 2010.
- I have been convening the Asia-Pacific Seminar Series at UNSW at ADFA campus.