Imagining Aceh: social change and emerging political subjectivities in post-tsunami Banda Aceh, Indonesia
Annemarie Samuels (Leiden University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores how new political subjectivities emerged in the complex arena of social actors in post-tsunami Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
Paper long abstract:
The Indian Ocean tsunami of the 26th of December 2004 caused death and destruction in the Indonesian province of Aceh. It has been argued that the tsunami also accelerated ongoing social changes; influencing both negotiations about peace in Aceh's violent conflict that ended in August 2005 and accelerating the implementation of Islamic law in the province. It also effected more subtle social and political changes, building on long-term ideas as well as fostering new imaginations of identity and citizenship. It did so through the complex arena of social actors that emerged in the reconstruction process and that will be the focus of this paper. In this paper, which is based on more than 12 months of fieldwork in Banda Aceh, I will ask how political subjectivities were created in the reconstruction process and how they continue to influence the post-reconstruction social and political landscape. I will look at the ways in which people who adopted the label of 'tsunami victim' defined their relationships with the state (predominantly as one of entitlement and accountability) and humanitarian agencies (predominantly as a gift relationship), how many humanitarian agencies ensured their visibility in their 'gifts' through omnipresent logos, and how the national reconstruction agency through its "building back better" rhetoric not only continuously emphasized a successful reconstruction story, but also silenced past grief and grievances. After reconstruction had formally ended in 2009, changing ideas of 'Aceh' and its place in the Indonesian nation and the world kept influencing local politics and citizens' subjectivities.