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Jeremy J. Kingsley

This article demonstrates how an integral element of the fabric of governance on the eastern Indonesian island of Lombok, and many other parts of the Indonesian archipelago, are non-state local security arrangements, such as night watches and militias. These groups play a significant role in the local infrastructure of security and law enforcement. Consequently, this article challenges a common assumption by legal scholars, and many other observers of Indonesia, that state-based institutions such as the police are the exclusive, and only legitimate, mode of law enforcement in Indonesia. Through an ethnographic engagement with the idea of law enforcement on Lombok, I seek to broaden these assumptions about legitimate modes of statecraft. These non-state entities fill a void in the Indonesian law enforcement architecture that the state is unable or unwilling to fulfil (or potentially finds it more practical to delegate to local non-state institutions).

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Genealogical Avenues, Long-Distance Flows and Social Hierarchy

Hadramī Migrants in the Indonesian Diaspora

Johann Heiss and Martin Slama

The article reflects on the role of genealogy in the process of Hadramī migration to Indonesia and explores the relation between genealogy and the construction of hierarchy and identity among diaspora Hadramīs. In addition to persons and ideas travelling along genealogical networks from the Hadramawt to Indonesia, the authors examine long-distance flows originating from Middle Eastern centres of Islamic learning, which were used to question a genealogically based social hierarchy. After discussing the flows and movements of the colonial period, our focus advances to the present, as we investigate the consequences of both new and renewed long-distance connections between Indonesia and the Hadramawt.

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Interiority and government of the child

Transparency, risk, and good governance in Indonesia

Jan Newberry

Early childhood education and care programs in Indonesia developed rapidly in the aftermath of the 2006 earthquake centered south of Yogyakarta. The newly empowered self-directed learner at the center of these programs seemed to follow from the emergence of another child in this devastated landscape: the traumatized child in need of healing. The appearance of these images of childhood along with Indonesia’s neoliberal democratization reiterates the long-standing relationship between childhood and rule. Grounded in long-term ethnographic work in the Yogyakarta area, this article traces a conceptual link between the shift to transparent and accountable good governance in post-Suharto Indonesia and the desire to produce a newly transparent childhood ready for intervention. The generative power of history, trauma, and the interior self is contrasted with risk management, nongovernmental governance, and the exteriorization of self and state to challenge the unquestioned good of empowerment and transparency.

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Dharma Power

Searching for Security in Post–New Order Indonesia

Kari Telle

Security concerns are creeping into new aspects of everyday life in Indonesia, resulting in new organizational forms and ways of perceiving self and society. Stressing the cultural shaping of all security discourses, this article examines how members of the Balinese minority on the island Lombok have formed a Hindu-inspired civilian security force known as Dharma Wisesa. I argue that the appeal of this movement is located in its attempts to fuse domains of power that the modern state has prised apart. Having appropriated the magic of the state, the Dharma Wisesa movement also maintains relations with a 'spirit army' that provides supernatural support. Such practices draw into question the notion of secular modernity and suggest that authority is constituted by allying oneself with different forms of power, both visible and invisible.

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Thijs Schut

Development discourses often assume linear rural transitions, in which educated young people are supposed to leave their rural communities, becoming urban. However, drawing on fieldwork in Flores (East Indonesia), I argue that tertiary educated young people do return to their natal communities upon graduation. There, they want to act—by virtue of their education—as vanguards of positive change and alter what they consider backward, rural livelihoods and practices. Yet, educated young people often depend on these livelihoods and practices, too, especially when they cannot obtain work, which is common in rural Flores. To better understand the tensions inherent to these young people’s position within their rural communities, I map the reasons for their returns to rural Flores.

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Battle of Cosmologies

The Catholic Church, Adat, and ‘Inculturation’ among Northern Lio, Indonesia

Signe Howell

Based on ethnography from Lio, Indonesia, I explore effects on values, categories, and practices that followed the introduction of Catholicism to the area. Hierarchy is treated both as a model of value, conveyed through asymmetrical relations, and as a system of social organization. Hierarchy is employed as a way to order elements of value, to include the social-political sphere of stratification, and as a conceptual tool to analyze the relationship between adat (cosmology) and the Catholic Church. In adat, hierarchical relations constitute a means of social and ritual organization and practice in which the whole is considered superior to the individual, while Catholicism is based on an ideology of egalitarianism. Unlike adat, which pervades every aspect of life, the Catholic religion in Lioland occupies only a delineated niche of religion.

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Keeping the Future at Bay

Waria, Anticipation and Existential Endings in Bali, Indonesia

Sylvia Tidey

Coming face to face with the inevitable finitude of our existence has a way of clarifying what really matters to us. Such occasions of existential breakdown demand that we actively appropriate our lives and purposely decide how to project ourselves towards the future while drawing on the possibilities available to us. But what if these possibilities offer little for constructing a future we deem desirable? In this article I take a Heideggerian approach to anticipation in order to analyse waria’s (Indonesian transgender women) often-stated intention to ‘become normal again’, while seemingly never doing so. Here, then, anticipation is less about an orientation towards specific objectives and more about a response to existential demands, while keeping at bay undesirable futures. Waria’s anticipation of a future normal does not suggest an appeal of the normal but, rather, indicates a paucity of available possibilities to draw on in order to orient oneself differently.

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The Trauma of Liberation

Dutch Political Culture and the Indonesian Question in 1945

Jennifer L. Foray

Of the mid-twentieth-century European imperial powers, only the Netherlands experienced foreign occupation during World War II, followed soon after by the declaration of independence of the East Indies, its prized possession. I argue that the first series of events constituted a “cultural trauma,” and that, after May 1945, Dutch politicians and pundits viewed developments in Indonesia through this lens of wartime trauma. By the year's end, political actors had begun to interpret the recent metropolitan past and the developing Indonesian conflict according to the same rhetorical framework, emphasizing binaries such as “resistance versus collaboration.” While those on the political Left analogized the two conflicts in order to promote a negotiated settlement, their opponents hoped that, by refusing to recognize Sukarno's Republic of Indonesia, the Netherlands could avoid a second and perhaps even more damaging cultural trauma.

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Joseph Errington

Indonesian is the national language of the world’s fourth most populous country. Although it has 200 million speakers, it is little known beyond its borders and a narrow circle of area specialists. To reduce its obscurity in the global scheme of things, I will show here how it has developed into an unusually national but ‘un-native’ language. A brief sketch of the language’s history highlights commonsense ideas about language, identity, and nationalism that the Indonesian case does not fit, further reinforcing its uncommon aspects.

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Discourse of Decline

Local Perspectives on Magic in Highland Jambi, Indonesia

J. David Neidel

Scholarly studies of magic, sorcery, and witchcraft have differed in their conclusions about the empirical efficacy of such practices and the persistence of related concepts. Often marginalized in these accounts, however, are local commentaries that address those same issues. Drawing on two years of ethnographic research in the highland Jambi region of central Sumatra, this article examines magical practices found in the region, the modes through which they are acquired, and connections to a set of ethereal beings that lie at the source of those supernatural abilities. While the belief in and practice of magical powers remain widespread, there exists a general 'discourse of decline'. This article analyzes several elements of that discourse, particularly declining potency, practice, relevance, and believability, showing where local perspectives converge and diverge with those that underlie alternative scholarly frameworks.