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Fission and Fusion: Decentralization, Land Tenure and Identity in Indonesia

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Moeliono, Moira; Limberg, Godwin
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities, the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Conf. Date: August 9-13
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1413
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): IASC
land tenure and use
governance and politics
forest management
Abstract: From the introduction: "Decentralization in Indonesia established autonomy at district level whereby most government functions were handed (or taken) over by the district governments. One unanticipated effect was an increased eagerness for the establishment of new districts. In 2001 when the law on regional autonomy was officially implemented, Indonesia had 268 kabupaten. Although many divisions were planned, decentralization speeded up the process. Thus, within the first two years of regional autonomy, the number of districts had increased almost twofold to about 440. Similarly within the districts, sub-districts and villages have been split up dividing both territories and people, often along religious and ethnic fault lines. At the same time, however, new alliances within society are established at all levels. One powerful national level alliance is that of district governments (APKASI). Another is the alliance of adat communities (AMAN). "These two opposing movements have probably always existed as part of the struggle for control of both people and resources, but have become more fluid and visible over the last couple of years with the weakening of the Indonesian central government. Indeed globally as well, the weakening of the state has given rise to new orders in which local politics are politics of ethnicity of cultural affinities defining struggles for power (Huntington 1997). At local level, these struggles for power are observable in the way people organize themselves to use and conserve natural resources and are especially evident at the margins of the State (Wollenberg et al, forthcoming) such as in the districts of Malinau and Manggarai described in this paper. "The ongoing struggles for power in Indonesia are visible in flexible and adaptable processes of fission and fusion. Fissions, such as between natives and outsiders, are in contrast to fusions, in which different groups build alliances to gain power. Both fission and fusion occur at different levels of organization, from the local to the district as well as horizontally between groups as well as vertically. In this paper the main focus is on fission and fusion at district and community level which occurs as part of the struggle to control benefits from natural resources. Of particular interest is the fission and fusion at local level whereby the meaning of masyarakat adat, and terms denoting native such as asli are renegotiated and redefined in relation to rights over resources and the building of a local identity. "In general fission is shown to be downward in response to direct competition over benefits from land and forests. Fusion, on the other hand, appears to be an upward movement to gain political power. Political power, however, is often used to gain control over the allocation and use of available resources."

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