Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Entangled State: Sorcery, State Control and Violence in Indonesia

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Entangled State: Sorcery, State Control and Violence in Indonesia

Article excerpt

The entangled state: Sorcery, state control and violence in Indonesia

By NICHOLAS HERRIMAN

New Haven: Yale Southeast Asian Studies Monograph no. 62, 2012. Pp. xviii+ 172

pp. Illustrations, Bibliography.

doi: 10.1017/S0022463414000447

Nicholas Herriman wrote a valuable doctoral thesis in Anthropology and Asian Studies at the University of Western Australia in 2007 entitled 'A din of whispers: Community, state control and violence in Indonesia'. This publication of 2012 is based on that thesis, but the material has now been reworked so as to provide a more theoretically political-sciencelike focus on the concept of 'the entangled state'. This term does not appear in the original thesis and has not, in my view, enhanced the value of the publication.

In 1988-89, there was a wave of sightings of so-called ninjas--blackclad villains capable of extraordinary physical feats--and of black magic practitioners, particularly in Banyuwangi (southeastern Java), which has long been noted for its belief in sorcery. Many of these people, perhaps up to 200, were killed. Many turned out to be innocent persons with psychiatric conditions. A number of traditionalist religious leaders (kyais) were also murdered. Herriman's thesis is the most comprehensive study of these episodes, based on fieldwork he did in 2000-2002. In this publication, the immediacy of individual stories remains a strength.

It is true, as Herriman says, that writers have been inclined to overestimate the oppressive capacity of the Indonesian state under Soeharto and that central state power was often negotiated and adapted in local circumstances. …

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