To what extent can the state capacity of post-colonial states be explained by the inclusion and exclusion of the indigenous population, during the colonial era? This question is the impetus of my dissertation research in political science at the University of Missouri. The purpose of my dissertation project is to examine how and why colonialism affects the state capacity of post-colonial states, and the divergence in post-colonial outcomes. The theory put forth here is that colonial policies that excluded the indigenous population from sociopolitical fixtures at the core of scholastic assessments of state capacity, adversely affected post-colonial state capacity.
Danielle Widman Abraham
Post-Doc, Assistant Professor, Islam and Comparative Religion, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Ursinus College
“The Tides of Memory: Mourning and Remembrance in Aceh’s Mass Graves”
This project chronicles how post-tsunami “kuburan massal” (mass graves) in Aceh resituated devotional practices of remembering the dead. Combining contemporary history and ethnography, I investigate the how mass graves situate pious mourning and memorialize the event of the tsunami. Both the Islamic and the interreligious dimension of kuburan massal inform devotions to the dead. Remembrance of the tsunami, of the lives lost, of the afterlife, of God, and of family becomes a pedagogy of belonging across generations and also a pedagogy of pluralism. These practices of remembrance and devotion are contextualized in terms of the cultural memory of trauma and resilience.
Doctoral candidate, Political Ecology, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, U.C. Berkeley
“Mining Struggles and Stability: The Emergence of Informal Gold Mining Institutions in Indonesia”
My research investigates the anomalous character of the Indonesian gold mining region of Pongkor, West Java, by examining the organization of property, production, and labor relations within the local smallscale mining economy. Using ethnographic and historical methods, it seeks to address how this industry has achieved relative stability and sophistication amidst apparent struggles with an adjacent corporate mining operation and in defiance of the predominant scholarly literature on small-scale mining. It locates the emergence of informal institutions, shaped by historical and contemporary struggles over natural resources, as a critical window into this puzzle.
Doctoral candidate, Government, Department of Government, Cornell University
“Digitizing historical Indonesian texts for computational analysis”
The last decade has seen an explosion of interest in computational analysis of text in the social sciences and the humanities. These methods show great promise but are not easily translated to research on Indonesia because of the general lack of digitally available texts. This is particularly true for historical texts, very few of which are available online. In this application I propose to work with Bandung Institute of Technology to develop tools to facilitate the digitization of historical Indonesian texts. This project will greatly benefit Indonesian scholars working applying computational methods to historical sources.
Doctoral candidate, Ethnomusicology, Department of Music, U.C. Riverside
“Indonesian Women at the Intersection of Islamic Revival, Popular Culture, and Erotics”
Both eroticism and Islamic piety have been increasing in dangdut, Indonesia’s most popular music. I hypothesize that Indonesian women listen to and sing dangdut to participate in national belonging, develop relationships with other women, and express femininity and sexuality in private. My twelve months of ethnographic research will be divided between Surabaya, home to frenetic, erotic live dangdut concerts, and Jakarta, home to record labels and industry stars. I will research how dangdut hopefuls and women fans establish gender identity in a time of mass media upheaval and religious conflict over popular culture.
Kristina van Dexter
Doctoral candidate, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University
“Contentious Land-Use Change and Forest Governance: A Study of Oil-palm and Shifting Cultivation in East Kalimantan, Indonesia”
This research aims to advance understanding of the governance agricultural land and forests for conservation, climate change, food security and livelihoods outcomes in East Kalimantan, a priority jurisdiction under Indonesia’s REDD+ strategy. Using a combination of qualitative research methods, I will investigate how land use strategies for forest landscape governance manifest within this landscape, taking into account broader socioeconomic dynamics that shape land-use and ongoing transition processes. In particular, l will examine land use conflicts that arise from between palm oil and shifting cultivation land-use among large-scale agricultural producers and smallholders, and the consequences for conservation and food security.
Doctoral candidate, Cultural Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz
“Edge Effects: Salt Making Landscapes of Indonesia”
This project examines how salt’s material qualities and cultural capacities shape efforts to produce it as a strategic commodity for the Indonesian state. While salt is becoming an artisanal good in places across the globe, state intervention in Indonesia has meant a sharp turn towards industrialization and standardization. I adopt the categories of “vernacular salt” and “state salt” as heuristics to trace the conceptual and chemical transformations salt undergoes across sites and scales. By attending to everyday encounters, this research explores how different kinds of salt are enmeshed within social worlds, ritual practices, and state apparatuses that shape Indonesian landscapes.
Moniek van Rheenen
Doctoral candidate, Linguistic Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan
“Modern Migration, Language Habits & Youth Identity in Pekanbaru, Indonesia”
My project analyzes multilingual interactions between ethnic groups in Pekanbaru and Bukittinggi, Indonesia. As a result of migration, language patterns in Pekanbaru vary due to the privileging of native dialects in older generations. Youth, however, tend to use the official language as their main mode of interaction, potentially indexing a greater sense of national identification and unification, though bringing into question religious tolerance and increased Islamization in a pluralistic state.
Doctoral candidate, Language, Literacy and Culture, Department of Education, University of California, Berkeley
“Local Language Ideologies in Nusa Tenggara Timor: an investigation of changing perceptions and behaviors”
This project studies language ideologies in Nusa Tenggara Timor Province (NTT). The key research foci are (1) individuals’ perceptions about local languages, (2) shifts in those perceptions, and (3) the relationships between local languages and individual and group identities. Against the background of increasing language loss, the study is situated in an educational context, considering how metalinguistic awareness and sociolinguistics knowledge impacts personal convictions and linguistic practice. Using survey and interview data, this research will shed light on how dominant language ideologies can be subverted, not only by top-down policy or curricular changes, but also by individuals.
Doctoral candidate, Political Science, Government, Harvard University
“Political Intermediation in Indonesia”
How do political candidates in Indonesia bargain with the formal organizations that structure so much of neighborhood life. I study intermediation in the voting process, looking at the role played by ideology, social networks, partisanship, and information in the delicate negotiations between candidates and the group leaders who claim to have votes to deliver. Combining a theory of political brokerage with a survey of group leaders, I propose a model of the candidate-group leader bargaining process, and test it with interviews, surveys, and a new database of electoral results.