Rubber plantation

Rubber plantation in Lembah Duri, North Bengkulu, Bengkulu (personal collection)

Elite-Peasant Relations in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia: Decentralization, Dispossession, and Countermovement (Doctoral Dissertation)

This study aims to investigate why elites accommodate peasant interests at the local but not national level and variations of the local accommodation across local districts in post-authoritarian Indonesia. Utilizing ethnographic, interview, and archival materials from 24 months of fieldwork with a focus of four different sites – Serang (Banten), Bulukumba (South Sulawesi), North Bengkulu (Bengkulu), and national dynamics in Jakarta – I argue that 1) the presence of a unified organization representing peasant communities and 2) the convergence of interests between local elites and peasants account for such accommodation

Furthermore, variations in local accommodation types can be explained by 1) the strength of local civil society and 2) the degree of salience of local agrarian issues. I also identify two models of local accommodation: 1) civil society corporatism, in which civil society organizations serve as the intermediaries between elites and peasants in a corporatist framework and 2) accommodation through mobilization, wherein peasant social movements choose a more confrontational strategy such as protests and land occupation to increase their bargaining power vis-à-vis elites. Echoing Karl Polanyi, I see this rise of societal efforts to protect peasant livelihood and influence agrarian policies in contemporary Indonesia as an example of the notion of countermovement against the excessive marketization of the social life.

This dissertation research is financially supported by NIU Political Science Department’s Russell Smith Scholarship, Transparency for Development Predoctoral Fellowship from Ash Center at Harvard Kennedy School and Results from Development Institute, The University of Sydney’s Southeast Asia Centre Visiting PhD Fund, and ENITAS Scholarship from The Institute of Thai Studies at Chulalongkorn University. This research also benefits from the institutional support of LP3ES’s Visiting Research Fellowship and financial support from the Graduate School Dissertation Completion Fellowship at NIU. A book chapter deriving from this research, “Movements for Land Rights in Democratic Indonesia,” is forthcoming in Activists in Transition: Contentious Politics in the New Indonesia (edited by Thushara Dibley and Michele Ford, scheduled to be published next year).

Published Works
My works on social movements, political Islam, people’s history, Indonesian politics, and theoretical reflection on Southeast Asian Studies have been published in venues such as Indonesia, Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, Asian Labour Review, Jurnal Karbon, and Jurnal Kajian Wilayah. For a complete list of my work please click over to my page.

Working Papers and Ongoing Projects
“Local Elite Turnover in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia” (with Michael Buehler)
“Community Intervention in Healthcare in Indonesia and Tanzania” (with the T4D team)
Low-quality Local Democracy in Indonesia and Mexico”
“Indonesia’s Agrarian History from Early to Late Colonial Era: Toward a People’s History?”
“A Tale of Two Districts: Patterns of Elite-Peasant Relations in Serang and Bulukumba”
“Village Intermediaries in Public Service Provision in Serang District”
“Rokib: A Portrait of a Rural Modernizer” (A life history project)



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