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Abstract

In this paper I focus on the Muslim video compact discs (VCDs) that circulated in wartime Maluku during the religiously inflected conflict that wracked these eastern Indonesian islands in the early 2000s. Characterized by an aesthetics of seriality and repetition, scenes of urban warfare and rampant destruction serve as backdrop for close-ups of the vulnerable Muslim body rent asunder by Christian aggression. Unfolding as repeated rupture across the VCD's frames, such films visualize the ummah as a body in parts rather than a coherent unity. Of particular concern is the VCD's mode of interpellation, the aesthetic of accident that violently undermines any narrative framing, and the relation between postnarrative appeal and public making. Within a wider media ecology, Malukan "Muslim Power" murals featuring Sunni and Shia big men from different times and places appear to counter the VCDs' visions of the ummah in shreds with the strong image of a transnational, transhistorical ummah. Yet such murals also echo the VCDs' indeterminacy and displays of vulnerability as they also aim to contain them through the defensive lineup of Muslim strongmen. While ethnographically focused on Indonesia, the argument has implications for understanding the appeal of Muslim genres of mediated spectacular violence elsewhere and more broadly.

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