Accepted paper:

Questions of scale: violence, insecurity and community in Kei (Eastern Indonesia)


Timo Kaartinen (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

The paper focuses on the definition and transformation of communal relations in the Kei Islands of Eastern Indonesia since the mid-19th century onwards. Late-colonial and recent attempts to contain violence and manage disputes are compared in order to outline the ontological and political constructs of insecurity which underlie government interventions and local agency during such events.

Paper long abstract:

The potential interpretations and consequences of social violence revolve around the question of its scale. In their attempts to maintain security, state machineries tend to focus on conflicts as local events and to project social order as an outcome of global values. The idea of security as something guaranteed by state order is constructed upon global images of insecurity and categories which define an encompassing mechanism for their control. The paper discusses the long-term effects of such categorizations on inter-group relations and government interventions in East Indonesia, beginning from effective colonization from the 1860's onwards. Whereas the political management of security has emphasized the boundaries of political communities and institutional domains, local security concerns tend to be focused on politically unpredictable events such as sorcery accusations, marriage disputes and conflicts over land rights and ritual prestige. The sense in which violence and mediation are framed as operating inside the community rather than in inter-group relations conjures up different images of insecurity and order than those used to rationalize police actions and state control. The interpretation of violent events in terms of different ontological perspectives raises the question of how, in what conditions, and at what scale, specific ontological concerns over security become politicized as broader ideological issues.

panel W053
Fragile transitions: from coexistence to the emergence of hatred, a comparative approach between Southeast Asia and South-East Europe