Return of the Sultans: The Communitarian Turn in Local Politics
THE REVIVAL OF TRADITION IN INDONESIAN POLITICS: THE DEPLOYMENT OF ADAT FROM COLONIALISM TO INDIGENISM, Jamie Davidson and David Henley, eds, pp. 149-169, London: Routledge, 2007
28 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2008 Last revised: 2 Feb 2009
Date Written: December 1, 2008
Sultanship - of the 'weekend' kind - has become perhaps the symbol par excellence of local identity in Indonesia's autonomy era. It is part of the communitarian turn in Indonesian politics after the end of the New Order. Identities are being revived or invented at a great rate, especially at the district level. For the researcher this is both surprising and dilemmatic. Surprising, because the autonomy process has been more often discussed in modernising terms of administrative efficiency and local democracy. Sultans were not meant to be part of the equation, but they are. We need to bridge an empirical gap. Dilemmatic because we as western-trained researchers hardly know how to respond to this revival of pre-republican authority symbols. Is this a good thing because tradition integrates a society buffeted by winds of social change? Or a bad thing because it represents feudalism? Here we face a theoretical gap.
Keywords: democratic transition, local autonomy, monarchy, tradition, identity, conservatism
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