The Rope of God

James T. Siegel
An ethnography of Aceh, Indonesia, by a master anthropologist


The Acehnese, a Muslim people of Sumatra, fought Dutch attempts to colonize them for forty years. After its "pacification," Acehnese society evolved peacefully, yet nonetheless the Acehnese participated fully in the Indonesian revolution and in a rebellion against the Indonesian central government not long after. Based on field work done in the early 1960s, James Siegel's The Rope of God, traces the evolution in Islam, in the economy, and in the structure of the family to show how it was that Aceh mobilized itself as a society from the time of the colonial war to the emergence of the republic. At a time when this Indonesian society is once again in movement, this influential study has gained a certain new relevance.

To bridge this span of time since its initial publication in 1969, Siegel has added two additional chapters to his original volume: one a description of political elements today and the other a previously published piece on Acehnese domestic politics.

Important when it first appeared, The Rope of God continues to be of enduring importance today and will be warmly welcomed back into print.

James Siegel is Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies, Cornell University and is the author of New Criminal Type in Jakarta: A Counter-Revolution Today, among other books.

Praise / Awards

  • "Siegel's book marks a signal advance toward a science of religion appropriate to its object."
    —Clifford Geertz
  • "Written with the urgency of a new message, this book says things seldom enunciated by anthropologists about the relationship between 'interior experience and social roles.' . . . Everything is made luminous and articulate by the wisdom that he has learned so well from his friends, the religious scholars."
    —Victor Turner
  • ". . . a classic in the study of socio-economic and religious change among a major Muslim population of island Southeast Asia and in that regard it has made a substantial and lasting contribution to Indonesian ethnography. . . . in its detailed and sensitive depiction of Acehnese society, culture and history it has not been surpassed."
    —Victor T. King, University of Hull, Aseasuk News, No. 33, Spring 2003
  • ". . . offers a superb, if partial, account of reformist Islamic thought and its place in Acehnese social life since the late nineteenth century."
    —Kenneth M. George, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Journal of Asian Studies, February 2003

Product Details

  • 5.25 x 8.0.
  • 440pp.
  • 3 maps.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08682-5

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  • $36.95 U.S.