Associate Professor Minako Sakai

My Expertise

International development, disaster recovery, women's economic empowerment, Indonesia, Islam, gender equality, Asia-Pacific 

Fields of Research (FoR)

Anthropology of development, Gender and politics, Studies of Asian society, Social policy, Humanitarian disasters, conflict and peacebuilding, Islamic studies

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Dr Minako Sakai, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of School (Research), has received numerous awards for her research. In October 2023, she received the Indonesian government's Culture Award (Anugerah Kebudayaan Indonesia), as well as the UNSW Vice Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research Supervision. She examines how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Indo-Pacific region, with a focus on...view more

Dr Minako Sakai, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of School (Research), has received numerous awards for her research. In October 2023, she received the Indonesian government's Culture Award (Anugerah Kebudayaan Indonesia), as well as the UNSW Vice Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research Supervision. She examines how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Indo-Pacific region, with a focus on Indonesia, as follows:

She held research fellowships with  the ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences, ANU College of Asia and Pacific, Cornell University and the National University of Singapore.  In 2023 she held a Research fellowship at State Islamic University, Jakarta.  She is frequently invited for international conferences for keynote and plenary addresses. She holds a PhD in anthropology from the Australian National University. 

My Grants

Recent Research Grants and International Engagements:
  • Dompet Dhuafa Republika Foundation, Research Grant, Islamic Social Engagement and Innovation  in Indonesia in partnership with the Dompet Dhuafa Foundation, Jakarta ($60,000, 2024-2025)
  • UNSW Women's Wellbeing Academy Small Grant, Building Back Better: Piloting post-Covid 19 disaster recovery initiatives for gender empowerment (2020) with Felix Tan and Nelia Hyndman-Rizk
  • The Ford Foundation, Indonesia (2018-2020, Muslim Women's Economic Empowerment USD 200,000) in partnership with UIN Jakarta.  
  • Australia-ASEAN Council Grant, ‘Fostering Women’s Empowerment through Digital Entrepreneurship’ with Felix Tan, Carmen Leong, Minako Sakai, Wing Wah Tham (2019-2020)
  • 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 Awards

2023 UNSW VC's Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research Supervision (Oct)

2023 Culture Award for International Scholars (Penghargaan Anugerah Kebudayaan Indonesia), the Republic of Indonesia (Oct)

2022 The Embassy of Indonesia, Australia, Certificate of Appreciation in Promoting Teaching and Research in Indonesian Studies


2021  State Islamic University Jakarta, Women Economic Empowerment Award 

My Research Activities

My earlier research explored the impact of Islamisation upon ethnic identity among Malay-language speaking Gumay people of South Sumatra in Indonesia. My ethnography titled  Kacang Tak Lupa Kulitnya: Identitas Gumay, Islam, dan Merantau di Sumatra Selatan (The Nut Cannot Forget Its Shell) was published by an Indonesian major publisher, Obor to return knowledge to Indonesia. 

My interest expanded to examine the impact of Islamisation among middle-class Muslims in Indonesia with a focus on Islamic microfinance, entrepreneurship and community empowerment.  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.  

My third-book titled Women Entrepreneurs and Business Empowerment in Muslim Countries, co-authored with Prof Amelia Fauzia is forthcoming from Palgrave Springer in 2022.  This book analysed how emergent interpretations of Islam in Indonesia have facilitated women to play a main role in the economy, which ultimately impacts upon gender relations in a comparative perspective. 

In addition to these monographs I have published over 50 articles and book chapters on the theme of religion, community empowerment and local development policies with a focus on Indonesia.

My current research is

1) to explore financially sustainable social innovation beyond philanthropy in partnership with the Dompet Dhuafa Republika Foundation, Jakarta. 

2) to examine how the notion of power and trust is associated with political dynasties in the Indo-Pacific. 


Recent Keynote Addresses

2023  Does Religion Still Matter? International Conferences on Interreligious Studies Sciences and Technology, LP2M, State Islamic University, Jakarta (6-8 November)

2023  Building Back Better: Disaster Recoveries and Embeddedness in Indonesia and Japan.  Disaster Management Conference, Graduate School, Andalas University, Padang (3 November)

2023  Development and Women Entrepreneurship, The 2nd International Conference on Gender, Culture and Society (ICGCS) 2023, Andalas University (24-25 October)

2023  National Seminar on Islamic Finance and Syariah Financial Institutions, FEB (Faculty of Economics and Business, State Islamic University, Jakarta (8 September)

2023  Public lecture. FEB (Faculty of Economics and Business), Universitas Andalas, Padang, Indonesia.

2022 Leaders’ Insight Series 3 Recent Issues in Women’s Economic Empowerment, Dompet Dhuafa, Jakarta (5 September)

2022 International Public Discussion: Overview of Women’s Economic Empowerment, Faculty of Economics and Business, UIN Raden Mas Said Surakarta (31 August)

2022 Invited as keynote speaker for the 7th International Conference on Social and Political Sciences (ICOSAPS) 2022 with a main theme of ‘Transformation in Times of Crisis’ Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Sebelas Maret University, Indonesia (5 August).

2022 Invited as keynote speaker for the International Seminar with a theme of ‘Integarated Models of Science and Religion in Contemporary Muslim World’ State Islamic University, Jember, Indonesia (18 May).

2022 Webiner Strategic Talk Series 3: Women’s Economic Empowerment in Muslim Countries: An Indonesian Case. 26 April hosted by the Indonesian Embassy, Canberra

2021 Invited plenary webinar speaker for Optimalising Islamic Social Entrepreneurship for the Islamic Social Finance and Commercial Sector, held in partnership with UIN Jakarta and Ikatan Alih Ekonomi Islam (IAEI), 8 November 2021.

2021 Invited speaker, Muslim Women’s Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship” Challenges Arising from the Pandemic, International Conference: Pandemic of Humanity, Memory, Creativity and Solidarity, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Islamic State University, Jakarta 13 August 2021.

2021 UNSW Women’s Wellbeing Academy Small Grant Recipient Presentations (11 March)

2020 Invited keynote speaker for the International Seminar on Baitul Maal wat Tamwil (BMTs) Roles and its Opportunities for Improving the Welfare of Micro-Businesses, held in conjunction with the Annual Convention of the Association of Islamic Savings and Credit Cooperatives (BMTs), Indonesia 19 November.

2020 Invited keynote speaker for Universitas Sebelas Maret. Surakarta, Indonesia, FISIP International Seminar about “Covid 19 and Gender Issues: Experiences from Different Countries” on 11 November 2020 from 09.00 to 12.00 WIB.

2020  Invited keynote speaker for Islamisation of the Highlands of South Sumatra: Gumay Community, the 2nd International Seminar on Adab and Humanities (ISAH), Faculty of Adab and Humaniora, The State Islamic University, Palembang, 12 November.  

2020  Invited Plenary Speaker for Community Development: Entrepreneurship and Self-Study Practices. The 8th International Conference on Educational Research and Innovation. OCERI 2020. Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta, Indonesia 4-5 November (Online conference)

2020 Invited Plenary Speaker for a panel titledSocial Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing’ ASEAN Conference, UNSW Sydney, 10 October (online conference).

2020  Invited keynote speaker for Theory and Praxis Anthropology. Social and Religious Research Development, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Ilmu Budaya, Gadjah Mada University, 7 September (online).

2020  Invited keynote speaker for Gender Perspective in Disaster Resilience of Covid 19, Gender and Development, Faculty of Creative Design and Digital Business, Department of Development Studies, Institut Teknologi Sepeluh Nopember. 3 June (online).

2019 Invited keynote speaker for Religion, Development and Women Empowerment Workshop, Graduate School, The State Islamic University, Yogyakarta.  5 September.


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

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    Public Lecture, ‘Women, Community Development and Entrepreneurship in Indonesia’, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences University of Sebelas Maret, Indonesia, Solo (Oct).

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 ‘Fostering Community Resilience by Connectivity between Victims and Supporters 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  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)

2017 Invited Plenary address. ‘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


2017 Plenary keynote address, ‘Community Empowerment, Institutional Transformation and Sustainable Economy’. International Conference on Religion, Microfinance and Community Empowerment (ICOFIN) 2017, Department of Islamic Banking and Economics, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta, and University Teknikal Malaysia Melaka, July.



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.


Research Collaborations and Sponsoring Visiting Fellows 

I am currently hosting the following UNSW Visiting Fellows to conduct joint research with a focus on the Asia Pacific region:

Past Research Collaborators:





My Research Supervision

Supervision keywords

Areas of supervision

Associate Professor Minako Sakai is a recipient of a 2023 UNSW Vice Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research Supervision and has an outstanding supervision track record involving international students. 
HDR Supervision  (Southeast Asian Social Inquiry) may be available subject to the alignment of research interests in the disciplinary fields of anthropology/sociology related to gender, Islam, development with a focus on Indonesia and other Muslim majority countries in the Indo-Pacific.  

PhD completions (primary supervision)

  • 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 Ritsumeikan International University) 
  • Dr Bhirawa Anoraga (Indonesian Government (LPDP) funded, graduated 2021)
  • Dr Ajie Saksono (Indonesian Government Public Servant,  LPDP funded, graduated 2022, rural poverty reduction and community empowerment)
  • Dr Juel Rana Kutub (UNSW funded, graduated 2023)

Masters completion (primary supervision)

  • Ms Farhat Hamid (MPhil, 2020)

Honours in Indonesian Studies

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

CDF Undergradute Projects

  • Ms Chelsea Smith (2023)

Currently supervising

Current Students under my supervision are part of the Asia Pacific Development and Security Research Group

PhD in Southeast Asian Social Inquiry (code 1203)

  • Mr Hadi Noori (PhD, UNSW funded, community-driven development in Afghanistan)
  • Mr Ahmad Mufarih Hasan Fadly (PhD, LPDP Indonesian government-funded, Muslim Identity and Religiosity in Indonesia)
  • Mr Teguh Ilham (PhD, LPDP Indonesian government-funded, Gender, Islam and Politics in Indonesia)

Current Honours in Indonesian Studies

  • Mickaylah Guidi (Gender, Peace and Security in Indonesia)

Current CDF Undergradute Project

  • Jack Harrison (Development Policies in Indonesia)

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

Recent Media Coverage

Sep 2022 Using Indonesian examples for Muslim women's gender empowerment  



Professional Activities

I serve as an expert on the following international journals  in the field of Islamic Studies, Social Sciences and Islamic Finance.

Advisory Role for Civil Society Organisations


Other 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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