Associate Professor Minako Sakai

My Expertise

Development,  Community empowermernt, Indonesia, Islam, Women, Social Policy, Globalisation, Asia Pacific 

Fields of Research (FoR)

Anthropology of Development, Religion and Society, Islamic Studies, Social Policy, Gender, Sexuality and Education

SEO tags


I am Associate Professor in Southeast Asian Social Enquiry and Indonesian Studies.  '

On Study Leave at the The Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies (Middle East & Central Asia) forms part of the ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences at The Australian National University in Semester 2 2021.

My research is undertaken as part of the Asia Pacific Development and Security Research Group at UNSW.  In 2018 I was Acting Deputy Head of School for six...view more

I am Associate Professor in Southeast Asian Social Enquiry and Indonesian Studies.  '

On Study Leave at the The Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies (Middle East & Central Asia) forms part of the ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences at The Australian National University in Semester 2 2021.

My research is undertaken as part of the Asia Pacific Development and Security Research Group at UNSW.  In 2018 I was Acting Deputy Head of School for six months at the School.

I have been working on inter-linked research themes, religion (Islam) and development, and social change in Asia, especially Indonesia.  I am keen to explore how socio-cultural norms and values involving religion can work to foster inclusive development and support community empowerment. 

My current research projects are as follows:

  1. Equitable and Just Development and Social Innovation: Crowd Funding, Social Enterprises, and Socially Engaged Religion (Islamic philanthropic NGOs and Islamic micro-financing for poverty reduction and job creation).  
  2. Muslim Women, Entrepreneurship and Community Empowerment 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 and women's economic empowerment. 
  3. Disaster Relief and Community Resilience of the Asian Pacific Region. I am exploring how civil society organisations and religious values play a role in rebuilding community resilience, inclusive development and assisting economic livelihood recovery.   Currently I am investigating gender-focused recovery initiatives in patriarchal societies

I speak Indonesian, English and Japanese fluently. 

My Grants

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)

My Qualifications

PhD, Anthropology, The Australian National University

My Research Activities

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 by Obor,and my second book, Penggiat Bisnis Syariah di Indonesia: Muslimah, Kewirausahaan dan Pemperdaayan Masyarakat (Indonesian Syariah Business Activists: Muslim Women, Entrepreneurship and Community Empowerment), was published by  Dompet Dhuafa, Jakarta. 


Recent Keynote Addresses

2018  International Conference on Culture and Language in Southeast Asia (ICCLAS) of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN) Jakarta: Contemporary Intercultural Relation Between Islam in Southeast Asia and the Middle East Countries.  State Islamic University, Jakarta (August)


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 (Oct)

2018      Public Lecture, ‘Women, Community Development and Entrepreneurship in Indonesia’, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences University of Sebelas Maret, Indonesia

2018      The The 3rd International Conference on University-Community Engagement (ICON-UCE) 2018, Organised by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Republic of Indonesia, Hosted by the State Islamic University Malang (Oct)

2018, ‘Fostering Community Resilience by Connectivity between Victims and Supportes in Post-disaster areas in the Asia-Pacific Region’, Plenary Panel Presentation, APRU 14th Multi-Hazards Symposium in Collaboration with the Research School of Earth Sciences, ANU (Oct)

2018  1st International Conference on Multidisciplinary Approaches for Sustainable Rural Development ICMA-SURE | 14-15 November 2018 | Purwokerto, Jend Sudirman University, Indonesia (Nov)

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, Microfinance and Community Empowerment (ICOFIN) 2017, organised by the Department 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.


Forums and Workshops Convened (2018-2019) 

June 2019, Organising Committe member, Women in Asian Conference, UNSW Sydney.
April 2019, Workshop on Women's Economic Empowerment with Prof. Naila Kabeer  (co-hosted by Asia-Pacific Development and Security Research Group and IGD) 

November 2018, Urban Resilience in Asia Pacific (URAP), panel co-convenor, UNSW on Climate Security and Community Resilience: Debating Institutional Innovation from the Grassroots  

Oct 2018, One-day Forum Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Asia Pacific at Institute of Global Development UNSW.

July 2018, ASAA, Sydney University.  Panel Convenor and Presentation: Social Innovation and Digital Financial Inclusion for Community Empowerment in Indonesia including two of my HDR students.  My paper was titled ‘Muslim mompreneurs in Indonesia’.

June 2018 HASS Social Sciences Workshop on Women’s Empowerment and Gendered Violence, Workshop Convenor and presentation.


International Collaborations: 

I am currently hosting the following Visiting Fellows whose work are concerned with development issues with a focus on the Asia Pacific region:
Dr Amelia Fauzia (State Islamic University, Jakarta)

Dr Rafisah Mat Radzi  (Universiti Sains Malaysia)

A.Prof. Stephen Sherlock (Australia)





My Research Supervision

Supervision keywords

Areas of supervision

HDR Supervision  (Southeast Asian Social Inquiry)

I enjoy academic engagements with my research students.  We work closely for publications and conference presentations.  Our research cluster focuses on the topics of Islam, development, socially-engaged religion, civil society and socio-economic development (micro-finance, minority integration, disaster recovery) in contemporary Indonesia.  Potential candidates are encouraged to contact me with a short proposal. 

Recently completed international Research students:

PhD completions

  • Dr Jaebong Park (UNSW funded, 2008 graduated) 
  • Dr Najib Kailani (UNSW funded, 2015 graduated, currently working as a State Islamic University Yogyakarta lecturer, Indonesia)
  • Dr Falikul Isbah (UNSW funded, 2016 graduated, currently working as a lecturer in sociology,  Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia  )
  • Dr Riza Nurdin (UNSW funded, disaster resilience civil society development, 2018 graduated, currently a postdoctoral fellow at Southeast Asian Studies, Universiti Malaya, Malaysia) 
  • Dr Bhirawa Anoraga (Indonesian Government (LPDP) funded, crowdfunding and civic pluralism, 2021)

Masters completion

  • Ms Farhat Hamid (MPhil, 2020)

Honours in Indonesian Studies

  • Ms Sammy Chapman (Honours in Indonesian Studies, Islam and Nationalism among  Indonesian Youth. 2019)

Currently supervising

Current HDR  Students under my supervision are part of the Asia Pacific Development and Security Research Group. They explore the role of Islam in socio-economic development in Indonesia and other Muslim dominant countries as below:

PhD in Southeast Asian Social Inquiry (code 1203)

  • Mr Ajie Saksono (PhD Indonesian Government Scholarship LPDP funded, rural poverty reduction and community empowerment)
  • Mr Juel Rana Kutub (PhD, UNSW funded, gender empowerment in Bangladesh)
  • Mr Hadi Noori (PhD, UNSW funded, community development in Afghanistan

MPhil at UNSW Canberra

  • Ms Pinkey Rani Paul (MPhil, women's role in post-disaster recovery)

UNSW Scholarship opportunities are available at UNSW Canberra.  Please visit the UNSW Graduate Website on how to apply and write to me to start our communication. 

My Engagement

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


Consulting / Professional Activities


 For her Engagement story please click

My Teaching

My  teaching philosophy is to transfer passion for knowledge. I value  students' active learning and engagement in class and is among an approved peer teaching reviewer at UNSW Canberra. 

I learn greatly from students' questions and I enjoy classroom interactions. 

Since 2015 I have been running an annual students' conference which involve all the undergraduate students in Indonesian Studies at UNSW Canberra in partnership with the Indonesian Embassy, Canberra, and the Deference School of Foreign Languages (Melbourne).

Along with this conference she also has been coordinating the annual Indonesian speech contest convened by the Indonesian Embassy, Canberra.  

Courses Taught  
  • Development Policies and Social Contexts in Contemporary Indonesia
  • Islam and the Challenges of Modernity 
  • Gender, Class and Society in Indonesia
  • All levels of Indonesian Language and Culture courses 
  • Honours supervision 
  • Research Projects (CDF undergraduate and IPS Masters Course Work) on the issues of Islam, gender, radicalism, interfaith issues in Indonesia
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BLDG 28-115 HASS (Entrance from Bldg 29)


+61 2 5114 5076
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