Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Hybridising State and Ethnicity in an Indonesian Region

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Hybridising State and Ethnicity in an Indonesian Region

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study traces long processes of ethnic politics in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. It argues that ethnicity has always been a component in the hybrid state throughout the contemporary political history of the region. By employing the concept of hybridisation, the study reveals that the weak degree of the hybridised state during the Soeharto era has become a necessary condition for the rise of ethnic violence. Only recently, the reconstruction of the benevolent hybrid state may gradually prevail. The existence of power sharing among ethnic elite, the democratic and peaceful gubernatorial direct elections that have taken place, and the inter-ethnic economic co-operation among ordinary citizens could make ethnicity develop in a constructive way as one of basic components within the hybrid state. Qualitative method has been used to collect data from various actors who have direct and indirect knowledge both during and after the Suharto eras.

Keywords: Indonesia, West Kalimantan, hybridisation, ethnicity, civil society organisation

1. Introduction

This study traces long processes of ethnic politics in West Kalimantan, one of hotly contested multi ethnic regions in Indonesia. It investigates processes of hybridisation of local state and its social and political impacts in the region during the Suharto reign and after. It is aimed at enriching previous studies on ethnic violence (Brubaker, 1998; Bertrand, 2004; Davidson, 2002; van Klinken, 2002). The previous studies have provided useful analyses and findings on the contestation of inter-ethnic relationships but they pay little attention on the structural processes that lead to the contestation and reconstruction of specific local state institution. The purpose of this paper is to investigate these structural processes and dynamic relationships among elite that finally lead to the Soeharto's state failure and ethnic violence in West Kalimantan. Moreover, it also aimed at explicating processes of reconstruction of local state in the current post-Soeharto era.

Qualitative method has been used to collect data from various actors who have direct and indirect knowledge both during and after the Suharto eras. A desk review to assess available research findings was previously conducted before visiting the research areas.

The paper is divided into the following sessions. First discusses the concepts of hybridisation and institutional close-coupling and decoupling as a guiding framework for the study. Second highlights historical and contemporary political landscape in West Kalimantan. Third analysis processes of construction, contestation and reconstruction of hybrid social and political orders during the Soeharto and the post-Soeharto eras in a narrative-empirical way. Fourth brings empirical findings into theoretical discussions and provide a possible trajectory of democratic movement in the future.

2. The Concept: The Hybridisation of State Institution

Exactly eighteen year ago, in his speech at the plenary of the world congress of sociology at University of Bielefeld, Germany, SN Eisendstadt urged to study the combination of basic components that formed existing social institutions in any society. The basic components may consist of religion, ethnicity, tradition and modernity, and they combined in different ways in different societies. Social institutions have never closed and they always changed.

His tenet on the construction of social institutions is useful for explicating the dynamics of state hybridisation. Quoting Rowe and Shelling, Frank and Stollberg (2004) define hybridisation as the ways in which forms become separated from existing practices and recombine with new forms in new practices. The concept of hybridisation has often been contrasted to homogenisation and polarisation. While the former concept refers to westernisation of institutions, the latter deals with the resistance against westernised institutions in developing societies. …

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