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Research Symposium

The Arryman Fellows’ research is presented at the at annual EDGS Research Symposium. All EDGS Research Symposiums are held at the Buffett Institute on Northwestern's Evanston campus. Click on the title of the presentation to learn more about the presentation and the fellow who presented.


Of Germs and God: Vaccine Refusal among Indonesian Muslims and the Shifting Authority of the MUI’s Fatwas

Author and presenter: Amrina Rosyada, anthropology

Respondent: Anuranjan Sethi, PhD Student, anthropology

What could possibly explain Indonesian Muslims’ refusal of vaccination, despite the existence of Islamic religious edicts—or fatwa—that support the medical practice?

Looking at fatwas on vaccination issued by the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) and Indonesian Muslims’ refusal to follow them, this paper examines how and why the MUI’s religious authority over public health issues is being undermined. This paper argues that the reasons behind the undermining of authority include the state’s move toward democratization, the growth of conservatism in scripture reading, the Islamization of science, and the spread of new media technologies in Indonesia. These societal changes have provided more access to diverse kinds of Islamic authorities and increased lay Muslims’ participation in defining acts of piety, leading to a fragmentation of Islamic authority in Indonesia.

This paper also argues that despite the MUI’s long-established Islamic authority in Indonesia, its religious authority should not be seen as stagnant, totalizing, and monopolizing. Rather, its authority is contested and shaped by the social, political, and cultural changes in Indonesian society and the agentive acts of its followers.


The Conspicuous Face of Punishment: Spectatorship and Public Governance in Public Caning in Aceh, Indonesia

Author and presenter: Febi Rizki Ramadhan, anthropology

Respondent: Mariam Taher, PhD Student, anthropology

What does it mean for caning in Aceh to be conducted publicly? What is the role of the spectators who watch the caning process? This paper investigates the role of spectatorship in regard to punishment and governance toward individuals who violate Qanun Jinayat, a local regulation in Aceh that legislates Islamic criminal jurisprudence. At the heart of this paper, lies the argument that punishment, as well as governance, should not be perceived as a practice that is confined to governmental bodies only. Rather, the spectators, who are part of the general public, also play a pivotal role in punishing and governing the violator Qanun Jinayat.

Cultivating Pembangunan: Rice and the Intellectual History of Agricultural Development in Indonesia, 1945-65

Author and presenter: Eunike Setiadarma, history

Respondent: Conrad Hirano, PhD Student, history

This paper traced the process of understanding rice during the first twenty years of independent Indonesia which created various meanings of pembangunan (development). This story of rice—as an instrument for independence, a part of economic contestation, an object of scientific and technological intervention, and an ideal picture of society—shows that the process of creating these meanings was not without conflict. Through debates regarding economic structure, errors in policy implementation, and competition with other political agendas, pembangunan became strikingly vague and obscure. This paper argues that because of the process, pembangunan idea was versatile, adaptable, and represented a shifting concept that slowly became integrated into the narrative of New Order economic change.

Making God and the Devil: Commodity Fetishism and Capitalistic Desire in a West Kalimantan Palm Oil Plantation

Author and Presenter: Atmaezer Hariara Simanjuntak, anthropology

Respondent: Aaron Schoenfeldt, PhD student, Anthropology

What might explain the rise of a new object of worship in a late-capitalism timespace, when life seems to be falling apart? Building upon Marx’s “commodity fetishism,” this paper looks at an allegory of production dialectic, involving a new symbol of god and the devil, within a farmer community in West Kalimantan’s palm oil plantation area. The farmers’ experience of agrarian change towards a new capitalistic—and mystifying—industrial plantation, has subjugated them to a world dominated by things/objects they themselves have created.

Meanings of Fire: A Pathway to Understanding Indonesia’s Forest and Peat Fires

Author and Presenter: Bambang Trihadmojo, sociology

Respondent: Wayne Rivera, PhD student, sociology

Indonesia’s forest and peat fires have become a global concern. The fires have produced significant burdens on society, regional economy and global environment. Notwithstanding multiple policies and initiatives, extensive fires have recurred in Indonesia. While evidence suggests that failure in preventing large-scale fires is rooted in contradictory actions among stakeholders concerning both the forest and the fires, I suggest that their actions are anchored in the meanings offire. A preliminary analysis indicates that such meanings can be categorised into several genres: wrath, disturbance, primitive, relational token, production, tradition and weapon of the weak. Further, these meanings were shaped by varying interest and the interplay among stakeholders. Yet, studies investigating social processes behind the emergence these meanings remain thin. This proposed study, therefore, is designed to shed light on meaning-making process offire.


On the Fingertips of Government: Forest Fires and Shifting Allegiance of State Officials in Indonesia

Author and Presenter: Sofyan Ansori, anthropology
Respondent: Kyle Craig, PhD student, anthropology

Forest fire interventions have been ineffective because of shifting allegiance of state officials. This paper argues that the shift is driven by problematic enforcement and disempowering bureaucracy on the one hand, and heavy socio-cultural pressure on the other. These dynamics create a particular juncture that stirs the lower rank officials’ positionality and they, in turn, use their power to stand with the society to overcome the state's strategies.

Politics of Premature Deindustrialization: The Case of Indonesia

Author and Presenter: Robie Kholilurrahman, political science
Respondent: Zhihang Ruan, PhD student, political science

The literature regarding premature deindustrialization in developing countries have overemphasized the economic causes and overlooked the political causes. Using the Indonesian case, this paper argues that premature deindustrialization would not have occurred even if the economic causes were there, had the political causes not also occurred. Specifically, the post-crisis breakdown of the state in the face of the reconsolidation of capital and the failure in tackling the political-economic reform dilemma during the democratic transition are proposed as two political causes of premature deindustrialization (2000-2016) in Indonesia.

Constrained Hegemony: Islamic Politics and The State in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia

Author and Presenter: Muhammad Ridha, political science
Respondent: Lamin Keita, PhD student, political science

This paper aims to elucidate why the aspiration of post-authoritarian Islamic politics in Indonesia has gained influence in the democratic process despite the disappointing performance of the Islamic political parties. It argues that Islamic politics is experiencing what I call as “constrained hegemony.” It suggests that the current paradoxical situation of Islamic politics is the result of the failure of Islamic politics to politically dominate the state along with the resurgence of Islamic conservatism in post-authoritarian Indonesia.

Disaggregating the State, Discerning Class Formation: Understanding the Persistence of Indonesia’s Transmigration Through Comparative Historical Analysis on Malaysia’s Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA)

Author and Presenter: Perdana Roswaldy, sociology
Respondent: Yannick Coenders, PhD student, sociology

This paper aims to understand why Indonesia resuscitates the land resettlement policy called transmigration, despite its economic failure, contentious character, and its high cost. The Indonesian case will be compared to Malaysia's land resettlement policy named Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) that ceased in 1990. This preliminary study suggests that the continuation of contentiously costly program like transmigration is determined by a set of factors from Cold War geopolitics to the particularity of the program. Such factors are enabled and orchestrated by the fragmented state actors and their relationship with a particular class called the smallholder that is inherent in the land resettlement policy.


Contesting Bridewealth-Classification of the Bugis Marriage Prestations

Author and presenter: Bahram Naderil, anthropology

Respondent: Hafsa Oubou, PhD student, cultural anthropology

This paper re-examines the classification of Bugis marriage prestations in anthropological terms. Widely classified as a bridewealth system, or loosely as a dowry system, the Bugis practice of material-giving prior to marriage, I argue, has been reduced to terminologies which neither encompass nor reflect the essence of the practice. The Bugis social identities of gender, kinship, and status, each with its own role in Bugis marriage, are (re)produced through ongoing ritual performances. The discussion of ritual performativity of these identities, when posed side-by-side with classic kinship discussion in anthropology, reveals the inadequacy of the category of bridewealth to encompass the Bugis practice of material-giving.

Power and Free Speech: The Elites’ Resistance to Criticism in Indonesia

Author and presentor: Ririn Kusuma, political science

Respondent: Malia Bowers, PhD student, political science

The fall of Suharto brought Indonesia onto a new path of democracy. However, after 19 years, Indonesia remains lacking in the exercise of free speech. I argue that the legacy of Dutch colonialization and the system of dictatorship which lasted more than three decades continue to influence the Indonesian political culture which justifies the elites’ attitude toward criticism.

Shifting Boundaries and Contentions: The Regulation of ‘Victimless Crimes’ in Indonesia

Author and presenter: Mirna Nadia, sociology 

Respondent: Omri Tubi, PhD student, sociology

Indonesia has witnessed the shifting of regulation to control “victimless crimes” after the demise of the authoritarian New Order regime—from deploying gender norms via public policy and propaganda to forthright criminalization of those who deviate from such norms. It appears that the changing political environment and contentious norms diffusion provoke social opposition, including criminalization of “victimless crimes,” as newer norms become increasingly visible and collide with the norms which are rooted within the nation.

Worker Unrest and Contentious Labor Practices of Ride-hailing Services in Indonesia

Author and presenter: Aulia Dwi Nastiti, political science

Respondent: Christa Kuntzelman, PhD student, political science

Why have ride-hailing services (i.e., Uber-like apps) prompted labor discontents? Using the case of informal labor in Indonesia, the author contends that the answer lies in the labor practices imposed by the middleman firm that is built on legal void on labor laws and facilitated by the use of technology, also the rhetoric of freedom and entrepreneurship. While the exploitative conditions are pervasive, resistance occurs when the firm violates drivers’ normative practices and threatens their subsistence incomes.

At Home or in a Clinic: An Ethnography of Trust Construction and Risk Calculation in Indonesia’s Maternal and Neonatal Development

Author and presenter: Sari Damar Ratri, anthropology

Respondent: Keegan Terek, PhD student, linguistic anthropology

A foreign-funded program, called Revolusi Kesehatan Ibu dan Anak (Maternal and Neonatal Health Care: Revolusi KIA), focused on women using a professional health care provider in a facility. In practice, some women preferred to give birth at home with help from a traditional birthing attendant (dukun) even though the government uses fines and punishments for every birth occurring outside the clinic. The author claims that this framework, in fact, neglects significant aspects of historical intervention programs, perpetuates health risks, and disrupts the established socio-cultural relationship among women, frontline health apparatuses, and dukun in the local community.


Buru Island: A Prism of the Indonesian New Order

Author and presenter: Sindhunata Hargyono, anthropology

Respondent: Foroogh Farhang, PhD student, anthropology

From 1969-1979, the Indonesian New Order operated a violent prison island called Buru to imprison untried political prisoners category B. In this paper, I question the nature of violence in Buru Prison Island. I argue that Buru became extraordinarily violent because the Indonesian New Order fully gratified its totalitarian desire in Buru. The New Order achieved the total domination through rendering political prisoners superfluous. In the latter part of the paper, I situate Buru in a bigger picture and claim that Buru was a prism which refracted its experience outside its remotedness.

The Failure of Indonesia’s State Monopoly: The Pertamina Crisis of 1975-1978

Author and presenter: Norman Joshua, history

Respondent: Wen-Qing Ngoei, EDGS Rajawali Research Fellow

The paper focuses on a reexamination of the near-failure of Indonesian state-owned oil company Pertamina during the late 1970s. The paper explicates how Pertamina’s underperformance from a combination of the nature of the Indonesian oil and gas industry, bureaucratic incompetence, corrupt practices, overexpansion, and the state of the global financial markets during the 1970s oil boom.


The Rise of Political Dynasty in a Democratic Society

Author and presenter: Yoes Kenawas, political science

Respondent: Yuchen Liu, PhD student, political science

This paper analyzes the underlying causes of the formation of subnational political dynasties and the mechanisms that enable dynastic politicians to emerge and to extend their power in a democratic country. This paper argues that dynastic politicians in consolidating democracies rely on the informal family network and the accumulated material wealth. These two factors allow dynastic politicians to tilt the electoral playing field for the advantage of their family members. This paper focuses on the formation of the Rau Dynasty in Banten, Indonesia.

Who Let the Watchdogs Out? The Proliferation of National Watchdog Agencies in Indonesia’s Post-Reformasi Era

Author and presenter: Sabina Puspita, political science

Respondent: Laura Garcia Montoya, PhD student, political science

Indonesia’s post-reformasi era has seen a proliferation of judicial watchdog agencies established to reform legal infrastructure at the national level that includes, but is not limited to, a human rights watch, an anti-corruption commission, and an ombudsman institution. This study proposes an analysis of the proliferation from 1999 to the present by emphasizing two factors that have contributed to the inception of this type of watchdog agencies, namely, pressing socioeconomic issues and change agents. 

Spatial Segregation and Ethno-Religious Violence: A Lesson from Ambon, Indonesia

Author and presenter: Wara Urwasi, sociology

Respondent: Lisa-Jo K. Van Den Scott, PhD candidate, sociology

When and how space influences the occurrence of communal violence in Ambon? By using archival data and secondary sources, I argue that space acted as a motivation-driven mechanism in which spatial segregation created a desire for a certain territory because of its objective and subjective values. Space also played a role as an opportunity-driven mechanism as spatial segregation increased the interaction within groups and facilitated groups’ mobilization in communal violence and the targeting of other groups.


Transformation of Dress and National Subject Formation of the Indonesian People in the Colonial Period

Author and presenter: Luthfi Adam, history

Respondent: Lauren Delacruz, PhD student, communication studies

The Durability of Sub-National Political Leaders in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia

Author and presenter: Muhammad Fajar, political science

Respondent: Rana Khoury, PhD student, political science

Post-authoritarian Indonesia has shown some sub-national political leaders fell from power before their first term while others have survived through it. I argue that the durability of these leaders is influenced by two factors: the strategy of extraction and populist policy. The different political strategies employed by the leaders have resulted in three institutional outcomes: durable-populist office, durable-exploitative office and non-durable office.

Power Struggle Over Land: Decentralization, Land Tenure Security, and the Rule of Law in Indonesia

Author and presenter: Najmu Sopian, political science

Respondent: Alexandra Sasha Klyachkina, PhD student, political science

How Bureaucracy Affects Inequality: The Case of Post-Authoritarian Indonesia

Author and presenter: Rahardhika Utama, sociology

Respondent: Andre Nickow, PhD student, sociology

This study demonstrates that the transition to democracy does not necessarily transform detrimental institutions nor replace the existing official position of the previous bureaucracy. Focusing on the output side of the political system in which public officials exercise political authority, it provides an empirical account of the causal effects of bureaucracy on inequality in the case of post-authoritarian Indonesia.


Democratic Transition and the Changing Pattern of State-religion relations in Indonesia: A Study on Institutional Change at Subnational Level

Author and presenter: Gde Metera, political science

Respondent: Andre Nickow, PhD student, sociology

The Ruling Ambition of the Military in South Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines during the Process of Democratic Consolidation

Author and presenter: Hipolitus Ringgi, political science

Respondent: David Peyton, PhD student, political science

Political Corruption in New Democracies: A Comparative Study of Indonesia and South Korea

Author and presenter: Danang Kurniadi, political science

Respondent: Silvia Otero, PhD student, political science