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Centre of Governance & Human Rights (CGHR)


6th December 2010

CGHR Research Group

State of Anxiety: Ongoing research on security and sovereign practices in Indonesia

Dr Laurens Bakker (Radboud University Nijmegen; University of Leiden), co-author Dr Lee Wilson (University of Cambridge)

Throughout Southeast Asia the burgeoning growth of sites of non-state authority has been well documented. Guerrilla movements, civil militias, community organisations, security groups and NGOs are just some of the many kinds of non state agents whose authority (locally) surpasses that of the state. These groups have far-reaching control over their domains. They maintain significant political influence and are often entwined with local networks of criminality as well as with elements of the police and military. Common to these sites of informal or localised authority are familiar discourses of exclusion, denial and territorial control. Ethnic and religious identities often define the contours of communal relations maintained by these groups. Custom and tradition, frequently linked to the issue of control of land and natural resources, are offered as principles of local governance and a countervailing force to the authority of state agents. A significant matter is that the authority of these groups rests on their potential for violence, not just its enactment. Are these alternate sites of authority echoes of the formal authoritative state structures in which they are embedded? The (im)balance between state and non-state authority in today’s Indonesia is the subject of a collaborative research project carried out by Laurens Bakker (Radboud University Nijmegen) and Lee Wilson (Cambridge University). The project, a comparative ethnography of civil militia groups in four different locations with different ethnic and religious profiles in Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Bali and Java, looks to examine the securitization of local governance in these field sites. In this CGHR Research Group presentation results were presented from fieldwork carried out from June to August 2010 in two locations (East Kalimantan and North Sulawesi) during the first phase of the project. Departing from theoretical concepts of state control and sovereignty, this working paper focused on the manifestation of power in public and economic practice, the place of human relations, and on non-state authority as a modern form of (un)civil society.

Discussant: Oliver Lewis, PhD Candidate, POLIS