Future Making Along Southeast Asian Frontiers
Time & LocationSession 9
Fri 09:00–10:30 Room 1.308
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- A Past for the Future? Heritage, Identity and Future Making at the Upper Mahakam Christian Oesterheld Mahidol University
This paper discusses visions of normative, or ‘preferred’ futures at a classical frontier region of Indonesian Borneo. Mahakam Ulu (or “Mahulu”) regency in East Kalimantan province, established in May 2013, is one of the most recent results of administrative proliferation in Indonesia. Bordering North-, West and Central Kalimantan, as well as the Malaysian state of Sarawak, the regency is at the fringes of the Indonesian state – and at once at the very heart of the island of Borneo, being one of the last ‘white spots’ on Dutch colonial maps until the late 19th century. Based on interview data from a number of fieldtrips to all five districts of Mahulu regency (between 2013 and 2019), this paper presents future scenarios as they are envisioned by local people of diverse socio-economic backgrounds, including government officials, teachers and students, members of the old aristocracy (hipui) and common farmers, religious leaders and ritual specialists. My interviews have revealed the past(s) of the region to be a significant marker in relation to development plans and imaginations of the future. Public memory and cultural sites have been important in the grassroots driven process of administrative proliferation and are currently rediscovered (and reinvented) in a wide arena of identity negotiation vis-à-vis neighbouring
regencies and ‘Indonesian’ traditions.
- Frontier-Making and Temporalities of Landscape in West Kalimantan, Indonesia Timo Kaartinen University of Helsinki
Turner’s frontier thesis raises an empirical question: what kinds of demographic and spatial dynamics arise from capitalist expansion? The paper discusses this question in the context of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Defined as a precipice between a densely populated space of settlers and empty land that is open to future settlement, frontier is a good description of many situations created by the expansion of rubber and oil palm cultivation. After giving an overview of such developments, I ask what happens when different frontier processes are present in the same space. Drawing from fieldwork in the Upper Kapuas Regency near the Malaysian border, I argue that the space of future settlement is always created by political acts: assessments of the land’s ecological state or value, security policies along national borders, the planting of monocrops that signify private or corporate land claims, and map-making that reveals or conceals the affordances for frontier-making in the landscape. The demographic decline of longhouse-dwelling people in Upper Kapuas makes them particularly vulnerable to such frontier-making, but owing to their history of shifting cultivation and resettlement they have various ways of countering it by historicizing the landscape and creating signs that project its value into the future.
- Jumping and Filling in the Blanks: Speculation and Anticipation on the Ayeyarwady River Land Frontier, Myanmar Benoit Ivars University of Cologne
This paper deals with people’s orientations – speculation, anticipation, planning – on the alluvial lands and islands of the Ayeyarwady River. Villagers who inhabit and cultivate on these unstable, yet very fertile spits of land, are always on the lookout for signs of land erosion and accretion. The frontier is continually happening as the river itself creates large events and structures, in the form of land appearance and disappearance, that villagers have to deal with on a constant basis. In many instances, villagers have to move backwards or forwards on the river, occasioning endless conflicts between neighboring communities for access to “new” land. Landscape and the people, sediments, grasses, and the river are active participants in the making of a frontier of “potentialities”. In this paper, I look to the materiality of the terrain and “new” land potentials as an object and opportunity in speculation and anticipation schemes, by which villagers try to maintain continuity in their lives. I reflect on the emic concepts of “jumping” and “filling in the blanks” to reflect on the ways people plan and orientate in a landscape where land access is only temporary and precarious. I discuss the role of the river and “new” land in shaping the lives of the people.
- Reclaiming the Frontier: The Recognition of Adat Forest as an Opportunity to Challenge Extractive Regimes Siti Maimunah University of Passau
The Indonesian government is supporting extractives, such as mining, logging, and large plantations, as part of a national framework and commodity-based approach to national growth. Indonesian extractive regimes play a key role in the formation of the country’s economic and political order and are supported by global and regional forces. Goverment provides the huge of land for extractive projects by create resource frontier, include on the digenous people territory. Seeing the land and forest ecosystem as commodities create a space of desire, an imagined project that enfolds the space and time to compose a frontier. Switching/ Turning nature into commodities creates resource frontier which are composed of historical resource extraction in Indonesia from underground raw materials digging, the massive ground level of rain forest logging and monoculture trees plantation to the air surface as a source of the carbon trading. Indigenous people in Indonesia experiences how the frontier visit and revisit their territory through state regulation. The state asingns land concessions to the corporation, overtakes the customary forest and create conflicts. Massive criticism and legal action have been raised at the ignorance towards environmental destruction, agrarian conflicts and civil society demands for agrarian reform. In 2013, the Indonesian constitutional court decided that the state should release customary forest from the state forest. In response, the Indonesian government in 2015 initiated an agrarian reform program which recognises adat (customary) forest. This paper will explore the different perspectives, expectations, and approaches of the 2015 agrarian reform by the Indonesian government and civil society and analyzes the potential challenge for extractive regimes.
In this panel we explore frontiers as sites of future making. Frontiers constitute spaces where intense and often highly conflictual negotiations between various actors from different scales are taking place – struggling over access to resources, identities, development goals and different visions of the future.
Initially introduced by Turner (1893) to explore the specific situation of territorial conquest of the American Middle West, the frontier concept is used by numerous scholars to analyze social, political, economic and environmental transformations in rural and remote regions in Southeast Asia. Frontiers are thereby understood as processes of territorial expansion, as actual borderlines or in terms of social relations and hence as socially constructed. Focusing on specific actors, Li (2014) explores an “indigenous frontier” while other authors distinguish e.g. between “capitalist frontiers” (Tsing 2005), “frontiers of control” (Geiger 2008) or “conservation frontiers” (Acciaioli and Sabharwal 2017). Most accounts of frontiers focus on the attempts of powerful administrators, politicians or entrepreneurs to inscribe their visions of development into an allegedly wilderness with abundant resources. But the people inhabiting these regions imagined as frontiers also have their own aspirations for the future.
We invite papers that provide examples of future visions expressed by rather marginalized voices along frontiers all over Southeast Asia to develop a more comprehensive account and a comparative perspective on future making along Southeast Asian frontiers.