Claire-Marie Hefner

Claire-Marie Hefner

Visiting Assistant Professor , Sociology and Anthropology

Dammann G-7
Tuesday and Friday 12:30-2:00pm

About Me

Professor Claire-Marie Hefner is currently a visiting assistant professor of cultural anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Manhattanville College where she teaches courses on Southeast Asia, Islam, gender, and ethnographic theory. She came to Manhattanville after defending her dissertation, “Achieving Islam: Women, Piety, and Moral Education in Indonesian Muslim Boarding Schools,” in the Department of Anthropology at Emory University in the spring of 2016.
Professor Hefner’s research bridges theoretical debates in the anthropology of Islam, morality, and education. Her dissertation-turned-book manuscript is a comparative study of ethical subject formation in two nationally-renowned Islamic schools for girls in Indonesia. She conducted nearly two years (2011-2013) of ethnographic field research in two Islamic boarding schools in the city of Yogyakarta, on the Island of Java, supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. “Achieving Islam” examines how Muslim young women learn and engage with what it means to be pious, educated, and modern. In it, Dr. Hefner analyzes the role of “reflective freedom” (Laidlaw 2014)—the ability of actors to stand apart from their actions and turn them into objects of evaluative thought—in the ethical training of young Muslim women. She examines the process of religious subject formation not by privileging the perspective of the institutions, administrators, and teachers, but by examining the “fragmented moral world” (Zigon 2009) in which girls live. She argues that even in a protective, ethically-focused institution like an Islamic boarding school, issues of morality and ethical training do not exist in a vacuum. Instead, they contend with other aspirational concerns in girls’ lives—from romance to consumption, popular culture to self-presentation. Drawing on contemporary theories in the anthropology of education and morality, her research reveals a far more multi-aspirational subjectivity than we typically encounter in many portrayals of Islamic education, not least with regard to Muslim women.

Current Courses
Cultural Anthropology
Cultures of Southeast Asia
Islam, Culture, and Society
Gender in Global Perspective
Cultural Anthropology, Ph.D., Emory University
Cultural Anthropology and Southeast Asian Studies, B.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Feature Publications


“Models of Achievement: Muslim Girls and Religious Authority in a Modernist Islamic Boarding School in Indonesia”

Asian Studies Review. 40(4): 564-582. 2016


“Aspiration, Piety, and Traditionalism among Indonesian Islamic Boarding School Girls”

Student Futures, Aspiration, and Political Participation: Comparative Anthropological Perspectives, edited by Amy Stambach and Kathleen Stewart. New York: Palgrave McMillan. 2016