Conference Panels

NEW DIRECTIONS IN RESEARCH ON EASTERN INDONESIA

Co-convenor: James Fox, Resource Management in the Asia Pacific (RMAP), Crawford School of Economics and Government, Australian National University
Email: james.fox@anu.edu.au
Co-convenor: Kathryn Robinson, Anthropology, School of Culture, History and Language, Australian National University
Email: kathryn.robinson@anu.edu.au

Over the past decade, there have been radical changes in eastern Indonesia. The introduction of local autonomy has given rise to a host of changes that go beyond the rubric of governance and resource management. Many local societies have begun to redefine themselves. At the same time, areas within eastern Indonesia have been sites of religious and social conflict that have prompted streams of migration (as well as the retreat and subsequent return of migrant groups). In response to these changes, anthropologists have adopted new perspectives and pursued new directions in research. This panel invites researchers involved in this work to present their findings and explore the perspectives that they have adopted.

  • SESSION 1     Room: 160 ARTS     Tues 5/7/2011     Time: 11.00-12.30     Room Location Map
    • Paper 1: Two paths of social changes on Flores in the context of globalisation
      • Eriko Aoki, Ryukoku University
    • Paper 2: Heroes, stories and histories: the construction of identity on the island of Savu (NTT)
      • Geneviève Duggan, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Singapore (ISEAS)
    • Paper 3: Ritual language in Schools: Transformations in Local and State Education Practice on Flores island
      • David Butterworth, World Bank, Timor-Leste & The Australian National University
    • Paper 4: How to Count Pigs in Ende: On Confidence and Trust in a ‘Developing’ Eastern Indonesian Society
      • Satoshi Nakagawa, Osaka University
  • SESSION 2     Room: 160 ARTS     Tues 5/7/2011     Time: 13.30-15.00     Room Location Map
    • Paper 1: Land Earth Sun Moon and The Father of Generations: Reflections on Words for God in a Language of the Eastern Lesser Sunda Islands
      • E. Douglas Lewis, Melbourne University
    • Paper 2: The Dilemma of Old Christians among Christian Moderns in the Timor Area
      • James J. Fox, The Australian National University
    • Paper 3: Modalities of Propagation of Islam in the Sulawesi interior
      • Kathryn Robinson, The Australian National University
    • Paper 4: Devotion, Diversity and 'New Piety' in Muslim Religious Practice.
      • Phillip Winn, The Australian National University
  • SESSION 3     Room: 160 ARTS     Wed 6/7/2011     Time: 11.00-12.30     Room Location Map
    • Paper 1: Butonese Migration Networks in Eastern Indonesia
      • Blair Palmer, World Bank
    • Paper 2: Men at Work: Migrant Labour and Modes of Masculinity in Flores and Abroad
      • Penelope Graham, Monash University
    • Paper 3: Negotiating Livelihoods in Remote Southeast Sulawesi
      • Stephan Lorenzen, The Australian National University
    • Paper 4: Mining and Regional Autonomy in Eastern Indonesia: Some Reflections on Practice in Southeast Sulawesi.
      • Andrew McWilliam, Australian National University
  • SESSION 4     Room: 160 ARTS     Wed 6/7/2011     Time: 13.30-15.00     Room Location Map
    • Paper 1: The streets of Kupang in 2009: New Political Opportunities and Ambiguities
      • Barbara Dix Grimes
    • Paper 2: Risky Ways Heading Down Under
      • Lintje H. Pellu, Artha Wacana Christian University Kupang
    • Paper 3: Witchcraft Beyond Suharto; Or, What Comes After “Post” in Indonesia?
      • Nils Bubandt, University of Aarhus
    • Paper 4: On the Edge of Power: Dialogic Narration of the Changing Indigenous Buru Landscape
      • Inez Saptenno, University of Indonesia

SESSION 1

Chair: Karl-Heinz Kohl, Goethe University

Paper 1: Two paths of social changes on Flores in the context of globalisation

Eriko Aoki, Ryukoku University

This paper aims at elucidating two paths of social change in a globalized context taken by different villages, ‘K’ and ‘G’ in Kabupaten Ende in central Flores. Among the Ende-speaking people of K village, an uppermost concern has been with a feeling of honour based on gift exchanges between affines, while among the Lio-speaking people of G village, a sensibility of sovereignty has been constructed mainly by rituals and poetic knowledge. Rapid change has occurred in central Flores since the mid-1990s. The direction of change in these villagers seems to be deeply related to their respective social concerns. Men from K have illegally migrated to Malaysia to earn cash while cash-crop cultivation has spread rapidly in response to global markets. The cash earned has been consumed mainly for gift exchanges and feasts of honour. In contrast, changes in G have centred on the reinforcement of a ‘tradition’ of sovereignty through the rebuilding ritual houses and the performance of ever more spectacular rituals. Most expenditure for this enhancement has been supplied by two men, who have acquired privileged positions in the Kabupaten administration. Under the program of decentralization promoted under through global political pressures, they have been able to appropriate governmental funding for their village. Although theories of power are dominant in anthropological analyses of change in a globalising world, the exploration of these two paths on Flores may shed a different light on such change.

Paper 2: Heroes, stories and histories: the construction of identity on the island of Savu (NTT)

Geneviève Duggan, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Singapore (ISEAS)

The fall of the New Order regime in 1998 in Indonesia allowed people to create new space to express themselves, especially through the media. On the island of Savu (NTT) various groups of people took the initiative to print leaflets, newsletters as well as articles with political and cultural content in the local newspapers. The new law on the autonomy of the regions (2001) boosted the enthusiasm of local writers to express their views on the island’s past and its traditions and portrayed historical or imagined cultural heroes. Some of these figures lived at the time of Independence, others during colonial or even pre-colonial times. For a society with little or no tradition of written texts, newly printed material had the aura of ‘truth’. The content of such texts was known to some, but was new to others. The case of the cultural figure of Maja associated with Majapahit times will be examined more specifically here. The question raised is how far the articles gave hints of historical accuracy or were new inventions. The paper looks at the impact of such texts in the construction of the island’s identity and local history, giving Savu a place in the history of the region and a role at national level.

Paper 3: Ritual language in Schools: Transformations in Local and State Education Practice on Flores island

David Butterworth, World Bank, Timor-Leste & The Australian National University

This paper explores the rationale and ramifications of the use of the ritual language of the Krowé people in a state junior high school in Sikka District, Flores, NTT. In ‘Local Content’ classes at the Watublapi School, the local ritual language, which is normally used in ritual performances to invoke ancestor spirits and recite mythic histories, is used for the instruction of moral principles. I argue that this usage is a) representative of the position of ritual language in the Krowé indigenous pedagogy as a valuable educational tool; b) revitalizing a now rarely used Krowé ritual language genre, called nao tonen, which is not tied to discrete ritual performance but incorporated into everyday speech acts; and c) drawing ritual language into an educational space dominated by the state sanctioned, orthodox pedagogy that constrains the oral and participatory characteristics of Krowé ritual language to make it more literal (i.e., expressed in writing) and rote-learned. The use of ritual language in school exerts on it both supportive and transformative pressures, altering both the school environment and the ritual language itself. Through this argument, the paper seeks to emphasize the role of ritual language in the mediation of local and state values in eastern Indonesia.

Paper 4: How to Count Pigs in Ende: On Confidence and Trust in a ‘Developing’ Eastern Indonesian Society

Satoshi Nakagawa, Osaka University

In the anthropological literature, "traditional" societies have been presented as reacting to the modernizing/globalizing trend in one or other of the following two ways: (1) appropriation and (2) cultural generification (Errington and Gewertz 2001). In the former, which is an optimistic view, a society is seen to make use of bits and pieces of outside influences to its own benefit. In the latter, which is a much more pessimistic view, a society is described as doomed, soon to be swallowed up by overwhelming outside influences. In this paper, I offer an intermediate solution employed by the Ende people of central Flores. The gist of the human relations in modernity is, I contend, what sociologists such as Giddens call "trust". Trust is a game where there is always a possibility of betrayal. If trust is one side of the coin, risk is the other side of the same coin. In stark contrast with "trust", "confidence" underlies all kinds of human relations in "traditional" societies. Confidence is what "we cannot afford" (Giddens) in modern societies. Heavily influenced by modernity, everyday life in an Endenese village nowadays seems to be an inextricable mixture of modern and traditional elements; yet a closer examination reveals that people distinguish the situations according to whether the principle in question is trust or confidence, and act accordingly. Like a bilingual speaker who can switch from one language to another according to the situation, an Ende villager can change his/her principles of human relations according to the context.

SESSION 2

Chair: Andrew McWilliam

Paper 1: Land Earth Sun Moon and The Father of Generations: Reflections on Words for God in a Language of the Eastern Lesser Sunda Islands

E. Douglas Lewis, Melbourne University

Sometime after the arrival of Europeans in the eastern Lesser Sunda Islands in the early 16th century, but before 1873, the compound word amapu (ama = father; pu = descendant) was introduced into the Sikkanese language of Flores as the word for the Catholic Christian God. The Sikkanese deity is Nian Tana Lero Wulan, Earth and Land, Sun and Moon, a phrase that encodes a complex cosmology without identifying the creator of the cosmos. In contrast, Amapu personifies the deity as creator and father. While the majority of Sikkanese are now Catholics, the older cosmology survives and has been celebrated in ritual cycles observed both by Catholic and non-Catholic Sikkanese for more than a century. In this essay, I suggest that religion in Sikka can best be comprehended by examining the reciprocal creativity of rhetoric and culture and, specifically, through analysis of a rhetoric of religion that has evolved since Catholic missionaries arrived in the district in the 1870s. I conclude that changes in religious ideology and practice in Sikka are manifestations of the creative interplay of rhetoric and culture and arise from the dialectical evolution of extant culture and new forms of rhetoric and novel ideas that find rhetorical expression.

Paper 2: The Dilemma of Old Christians among Christian Moderns in the Timor Area

James J. Fox, The Australian National University

In eastern Indonesia conversion to Christianity has been an historical process that has been going on for three to four hundred years. As a result, in the contemporary setting, there are those who regard themselves as ‘Old Christians’ – upholders of traditions that date back centuries and others whom Webb Keane has described as ‘Christian Moderns’ – recent converts whose views of proper Christianity contrast significantly with those of ‘Old Christians’. Old Christians have, for the most part, had the luxury of time and have thus managed to accommodate and indeed incorporate, within their Christian understandings, a substantial local cultural heritage. Christian Moderns, on the other hand, generally draw sharp distinctions between their previous cultural traditions and those of their newly accepted Christian life and have found it necessary to make a break, often radically asserted, with their past circumstances. The result is a continuing clash between modernists and traditionalists within the Christian churches of eastern Indonesia and these clashes are now one of the defining features of the region. This paper outlines some of these differences in the Timor area of eastern Indonesia, focusing on some of dilemmas faced by Old Christians who are told that they have not yet fully embraced Christianity.

Paper 3: Modalities of Propagation of Islam in the Sulawesi interior

Kathryn Robinson, The Australian National University

Anthony Johns wrote in 1975 that there was little written about the modality of spread of Islam in the Indonesian archipelago. Scholarship since then has filled the gap in knowledge for many parts of the archipelago, but has revealed diversity in the modalities of the propagation of Islam and its social and political effects. Accounts of the (relatively late) spread of Islam in South Sulawesi, in Bugis and Makassarese communities, have focused on the role of trade as well as political elites, Islamic institutions and also textual traditions. The people of the mountainous interior of the island, at the confluence of the contemporary borders of South, Southest and Central Sulawesi, were connected by trade in iron ore and weapons, to the coastal sultanates that embraced Islam from the 15th century (Ternate) to the 17the century (Luwu), but they retained distinctive identities and did not embrace Islam until the area came under Dutch control in the early twentieth century. This paper explores the manner of Islamic conversion in the villages on the shores of Lake Matano at this time, and the intensification of piety linked to the Darul Islam rebellion post-independence. How does this local history of Islam relate to current religiosity, including the response in these communities to the national move to intensification of piety?

Paper 4: Devotion, Diversity and 'New Piety' in Muslim Religious Practice.

Phillip Winn, The Australian National University

In SE Asia as elsewhere, social scientists are giving considerable attention to 'piety movements' as both illustrating and mediating popular responses to global currents in Muslim religiosity. Urban middle classes are generally viewed as having a central role in adopting and disseminating new forms of piety, via contemporary visions of a non-secular modernity often conceived in terms of reinvigorated opposition to the influence of local histories and traditions in devotional practice. Drawing on recent research in central Maluku and SE Sulawesi, this paper explores the limits of this 'piety' perspective in considering diverse modes of religious activity existing among Muslims in eastern Indonesia. In doing so, the paper reflects on recent formulations of a post-Orientalist Weberian analytical project that positions 'piety' as a key cross-cultural concept in the study of religious action.

SESSION 3

Chair: Kathryn Robinson, The Australian National University

Paper 1: Butonese Migration Networks in Eastern Indonesia

Blair Palmer, World Bank

Large flows of Muslim migrants from Sulawesi to parts of eastern Indonesia have led to strong ethnic tensions centred around resentment of the economic success of the migrants. This was a key factor in the development of the Maluku conflict which began in 1999 and continues to lead to tensions in Papua. Yet the patterns of migration and the social connections which enable them are poorly understood, especially so for the Butonese, who have not received the same degree of scholarly attention as have the Bugis and Makassarese people. This paper examines Butonese migrant networks, which not only enabled Butonese to find livelihoods in Ambon and Papua since the 1970s, but also facilitated the rapid re-establishment of livelihoods after approximately 100,000 Butonese fled Ambon in 1999. Butonese migration ranges from long-term settling to highly mobile circulations, encompassing both rural and urban destinations. Recent governance reforms which empower traditional structures of communal land ownership in Maluku and Papua weaken access to local natural resources by these migrants and settlers, who continue to be referred to as ‘Butonese’ and thus ‘newcomers’ (pendatang) even after settlement for generations. It is argued that these ethnic migration networks are playing key roles in processes such as urbanisation, democratisation and Islamisation which are transforming eastern Indonesian societies.

Paper 2: Men at Work: Migrant Labour and Modes of Masculinity in Flores and Abroad

Penelope Graham, Monash University

This paper asks what men’s narrative accounts of experience as migrant workers abroad in Malaysian Borneo reveal about their modes of masculinity at home in village Flores. I analyse contrasting narratives that depict a ‘frugal worker’ and an ‘engaging adventurer’ to see how the migration tales relate to cultural paradigms for masculinity in the place of origin. I argue that while men from upland Flores may depict labour migration as ‘self-sacrifice’ and/or ‘self-indulgence’, both themes redeploy a complex cultural model of masculinity that resonates back home.

Paper 3: Negotiating Livelihoods in Remote Southeast Sulawesi

Stephan Lorenzen, The Australian National University

Livelihood studies have struggled to engage in debates of more structural politico-economic nature influenced by global trends. However, emphasising global trends as the main driver for change on the household level runs danger of broad-brush conclusions that only marginally reflect the realities of households and communities. This article suggests analysing local livelihood practices by recognising cross-scale dynamic change, but remaining firmly rooted in local place and context. It explores livelihood strategies of households living in the most northern sub-district of Southeast Sulawesi province. Despite its remoteness, the region has been involved in the world commodity market for over a hundred years. This created a contemporary livelihood ‘mix’ of self-provisioning, market production and off-farm labour activities. Global markets and politics have long been part of local livelihood strategies despite negligible state intervention. Livelihood strategies, therefore, have to be understood within a context of local agency and global trends.

Paper 4: Mining and Regional Autonomy in Eastern Indonesia: Some Reflections on Practice in Southeast Sulawesi.

Andrew McWilliam, Australian National University

Mining is an opportunistic and competitive arena that promises revenue and other benefits for successful operators, governments and favoured local communities. In Indonesia, as in Australia, international demand for mineral resources especially from China and East Asia is facilitating a renewed mining boom. The sector is also being driven domestically by the dynamic impact of regional autonomy, administrative proliferation (pemekaran) and the radical devolution of legislative authorities to local government. For cash strapped local leaders the opportunity to issue mining licenses and secure a lucrative share of resource revenues represent attractive sources of public funding and private benefit. By its very nature, however, mining poses significant risks of environmental damage and social dislocation. Despite a legal framework that requires compliance to environmental and social standards in Indonesia, these standards are frequently neglected or poorly implemented with sometimes severe impacts on local ecologies and economic livelihoods. Striking a sustainable balance between revenue from mining and environmental protection is one that is challenging communities across eastern Indonesia and transforming social and political relations in the process. This paper illustrates some of these impacts and implications of mining practices with reference to case studies from Southeast Sulawesi and considers prospects for change under the new national mining law 2009.

SESSION 4

Chair: James J. Fox, The Australian National University

Paper 1: The streets of Kupang in 2009: New Political Opportunities and Ambiguities

Barbara Dix Grimes

In Kupang and Nusa Tenggara Timur decentralization has led to a proliferation of political parties over the last decade and provided unprecedented opportunities for local engagement in the political process. At the same time, the surge of local partipation has brought about an ongoing discourse of ambiguity and confusion about the political process. This paper examines the political discourse and images encountered on the streets of Kupang during campaign period of the 2009 election.

Paper 2: Risky Ways Heading Down Under

Lintje H. Pellu, Artha Wacana Christian University Kupang

As a close neighbour to Australia, East Nusa Tenggara has become a transit haven for illegal immigrants from countries such as Iran, Irak, Pakistan, Afganistan, Bangladesh and Sri Langka who seek to become asylum seekers in Australia. They generally arrive in Indonesia by airplane, then continue the voyage to Australia by boat. Local people are boat providers and thus become the agents of organized people smugglers who gain benefit from the illegal immigrants. A supply and demand pattern persists in relations between the local populations and these desperate refugees. However, due to various factors such as boat size and capacity combined with bad weather, many boats become stranded on the islands of Sumba, Flores, Savu and Rote. These people become detainees in an immigration detention centre in Kupang. The drama continues with the escape of these detainees and their recapture by the police. Escape from the detention centre may be the result of bribery or simply through climbing the walls. The capture and recapture of these boatpeople always makes headlines in local newspapers. This phenomenon has regional implications for current development policies. A lucrative income from people smuggling activities offers an alternative way to survive for poor local fishermen. This paper examines this situation but also considers the coping mechanisms of the detainees and their motivation for chosing Australia as an attractive destination.

Paper 3: Witchcraft Beyond Suharto; Or, What Comes After “Post” in Indonesia?

Nils Bubandt, University of Aarhus

“Post-Suharto Indonesia” is a common way of referring to current affairs in the world’s largest archipelagic nation. But is it useful to designate the current moment in Indonesia as coming after Suharto, more than ten years after the fact? What was originally an epitaph to a dead regime (and now a dead dictator) is acquiring the status of an academic normal paradigm that appears to describe a stable political reality, a New Order redux. How long will Suharto haunt both Indonesia and academic analyses of it? On the basis of my work with witchcraft in North Maluku, I discuss whether there is more to both spirits and politics in Indonesia than what the ghost of Suharto dictates.

Paper 4: On the Edge of Power: Dialogic Narration of the Changing Indigenous Buru Landscape

Inez Saptenno, University of Indonesia

Eastern Indonesia has been the target of a variety of economic and political programs to accelerate development. Such programs are often seen as causing extensive exploitation of the region’s unique ecosystem and rich natural resources leaving the regions and its landscapes in the hands of global market-dominated players. These national and global demands have since opened the regions to poverty, conflict, and military intervention. With growth-oriented macro economic policy, the ideologies of that are focused on these problems have often been portrayed as an ongoing discourse between authoritative voices with fixed meanings and stabilizing effects and challenging alternative accounts of the situation. Among the indigenous population in Maluku, the Buru people have seen and taken part in the changing of their landscapes by relying on local wisdoms. They have gone through enforced resettlement for several decades and have been able to achieve a sense of permanence over political issues. As preliminary research investigation of the literature of the indigenous Buru people in the current phase of eastern Indonesia development, this paper will explore domination/resistance, engagement/enactment through historical and experiential discourses to understand the implications of these changing landscapes for Buru livelihoods.