Academic journal article Southeast Asian Studies

Volunteers from the Periphery (Case Studies of Survivors of the Lapindo Mudflow and Stren Kali, Surabaya, Forced Eviction)

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Studies

Volunteers from the Periphery (Case Studies of Survivors of the Lapindo Mudflow and Stren Kali, Surabaya, Forced Eviction)

Article excerpt


One of the most prominent phenomena during the 2014 Indonesian presidential election was the massive role of volunteers-both individuals and groups-in organizing and consolidating support for the presidential candidate Joko Widodo, better known by the nickname Jokowi. Such volunteerism is not unprecedented in Indonesia.4 The rise of this phenomenon in Indonesia cannot be separated from the Reformasi (Reform) movement of 1998, which opened political space for mass public participation. The explosive growth of public participation in the early phases of Reformasi was followed by a dramatic increase in the number of civil society organizations (CSOs),2) spread of CSO coverage (PLOD 2006),3) and CSO influence and political leverage (Cornells 2010).

Nevertheless, this phenomenon still raises important questions, particularly considering the following two factors. First, it occurred during a period of increased public dissatisfaction with politics, in which various democratic institutions-particularly political parties and parliament-were perceived as having performed poorly.4) Second, compared to previous volunteer movements in Indonesia, a greater depth and breadth of spectrum was covered by the movements supporting Jokowi. These volunteer movements were spread throughout Indonesia, in both urban and rural areas. They crossed class boundaries as well as religious and political-ideological lines. They knew no age boundaries and included persons of all fields, from cultural critics to farmers. Furthermore, these movements were gender-blind.5)

This article is not intended to discuss all of the phenomena mentioned above. It is, instead, limited to two volunteer movements that emerged in regions facing social turmoil. The first is Korban Lapindo Menggugat (KLM, Victims of Lapindo Accuse), which consists of survivors of the Lapindo mudflow in Sidoarjo, East Java. The second is Paguyuban Warga Stren Kali Surabaya (PWSS, Association of Residents of Stren Kali Surabaya), which consists of survivors of the forced eviction of riverbank settlements in Stren Kali, Surabaya, East Java.

This article stems from research commenced by the writer in November 2014, shortly after the inauguration of the elected president, Jokowi. This research was conducted in two regions in East Java: the area affected by the Sidoarjo mudflow, in Sidoarjo District, East Java; and in Stren Kali, an enclave of Surabaya's poor residents along the banks of the Jagir River, which has faced forced eviction. Research was conducted over a period of four months, from November 2014 to February 2015; this included four weeks of field research.

The article explores the backgrounds of KLM and PWSS, how they transformed themselves into support movements for Jokowi, and their activities as volunteers for Jokowi. This article is divided into six sections. The first section is introduction. The second section gives a short overview of the concept of volunteer movements at a practical and theoretical level. The third section provides a summary of the history of the Lapindo mudflow disaster and the fourth section discusses the land issues in Stren Kali- the issues behind the formation of KLM and PWSS, respectively. The fifth section discusses the transformation of KLM and PWSS from advocacy movements to pro-Jokowi volunteer movements, as well as their activities in their respective regions. The sixth section is conclusion.

IIVolunteer Movements: An Overview

Volunteering is a freely chosen action done to promote the public interest. Motives for volunteering tend to be romantic, idealistic, and altruistic (Mowen and Sujan 2005). The presence of volunteers in politics is related to an abstract idea of volunteerism that Sidney Verba, Kay Schlozman, and Henry Brady (1995) classify as a civic participation model of public involvement. They draw on the classic book by Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (2000), which connects successful democratic practice with a high level of voluntary participation, defined as "public association in civil life. …

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