PANEL 6 – Politics of marginality in contemporary Indonesia


Chairpersons: Jafar Suryomenggolo, Centre Asie du Sud-Est and Amanda Tho Seeth, German Institute for Global and Area Studies

Indonesia entered the 21st century after a quick yet bloody regime change in 1998. Reformasi has paved the way for the reconfiguration and improvement of Indonesia’s institutions to support economic growth. However, as succeeding governments have failed to regulate the redistribution of wealth after democratization, Indonesia is now faced with the double challenges of uncontainable urbanization and rising inequality. In this panel, we seek to explore the intersection of issues related to inequality and social position in the context of massive social, political and economic transformations underway in Indonesia. We are interested in how subaltern communities experience their daily lives shaped by the economic changes, and the rise of right-based mobilization as shaped by democratization. It includes issues related to urban squatters and the “right to the city”, agrarian violence and the rights of peasants, marginalized identities, and social movements.

Keywords: Urbanization, Right to the City, Social Transformation, Subaltern Communities, Indonesia;

  • Mark Philip Stadler (University of Copenhagen, Denmark – Philipps University of Marburg, Germany) – Urban Poor Activism in Jakarta: Civil Societies’ Struggles against the Urban Capitalist Hegemony & Authoritarian-Populist Urbanism

Jakarta and its satellite cities constitute one of the most densely populated megalopolitan areas in the world, with some 32 million inhabitants as of 2020. The urban area is home to a community of ever-growing poor peoples’ neighborhoods whose life and survival is more than only a question of mere existence. It is where urban-poor activism is at home and attempting to change the conditions of the neighborhood communities for the better. Urban poor activism is a form of avant-garde activism in response to the ever-growing pressure on the urban poor population. The varied activist responses to structural problems and threats suffered by the urban poor as well as activist initiatives to eradicate the rampant problematic of urban poverty itself – summarized as activist struggles – is the core focus of this presentation, which includes the life, survival and thrive of the activists themselves. The presentation’s analysis maps the potential political and economic agency of urban poor activism, follows the trajectories of the activist groups and their struggles. Moreover, urban poor activism’s role in civil-society-to-government relations as well as the power struggles vis-à-vis “the urban capitalist hegemony” in economic urban life and “authoritarian-populist urbanism” (both Gramsci-inspired) in urban politics is scrutinized. Last but not least, the presentation looks at initiatives where urban poor activists join forces with social movements, unions, and political parties etc. to increase their potential political role. Urban poor ‘problems’ include but are not limited to unclear housing/tenure status, lack of democratic/cultural participation, limited or no access to labor market, education, urban infrastructure, resources like water, gas and electricity, and higher exposure to local epidemics and global pandemics, such as the current Covid-19 pandemic, as well as increased vulnerability to climate change. Claiming the ‘right to the city’ is part and parcel of the struggle of urban poor activism. Urban politics is on a relative rise in relation to national governmental politics. Urban (poor) activism, therefore, has the potential to change policymaking beyond the reach of urban policy.

Biography: Mark Philip Stadler is currently finalizing a PhD on Urban Poor Activism in Jakarta at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Recently he has commenced a Master of Theology (MTh) at the Philipps University of Marburg, Germany. He holds two master degrees from the University of Leiden – a Research Master (MA) in Southeast Asian Studies and a Master of Science (MSc) in Public Administration with a focus on International Administration. He has studied and worked in Singapore, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

  • Ferdiansyah Thajib (KUNCI Study Forum and Collective, Yogyakarta, Indonesia – Friederich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany)Transwomen’s right to the city: an oral history of waria’s self-organising in Yogyakarta

In this presentation, I explore the dynamics of transwomen’s self-organising through the lens of Kebaya foundation and the community which has grown up around it. Kebaya or Keluarga Besar Waria Yogyakarta is a waria NGO which is founded in 2006 first as a community response to rising HIV epidemics in the city. The organisation has initially been working HIV prevention and later on also operating as a shelter for underprivileged people living HIV. This presentation draws from oral history interviews which are initiated by Benjamin Hegarty, Amalia Puri Handayani and myself and conducted as a participatory action research with members of Kebaya and the broader waria community in Yogyakarta from across generations. Themes addressed in the presentation include the research protagonists’ collective memory of HIV/AIDS; the centrality of ethics of intersectional care in their activism; and their struggle for claiming social recognition in the city while moving beyond identity-based politics. This presentation also looks at the connections and frictions of waria self-organising with a wider network of civil society organisations and formal institutions. The latter includes academics, health providers and legal-public administrations such as the social office of the provincial government which support the running of Kebaya shelters, the local population and civil registry office for procuring KTP or national ID card and other government officials. The preliminary findings demonstrate that Kebaya has evolved into a focal point for not only the flourishing landscape of rights activism for social justice but also advocacy works in the redistribution of care and economic security amidst increasingly hostile marginalisation of people with alternative sexualities and gender expressions in post-Reformasi Indonesia.

Biography: Ferdiansyah Thajib is a member of KUNCI Study Forum and Collective, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He is also a lecturer in Gender and Sexuality Studies at the Elite’s Master Program Standard of Decisions-Making across Cultures (SDAC), Friederich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.

  • Veronika Kusumaryati (Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, USA) – West Papua’s Slow Revolution: Social Transformation and Feminization of Poverty among the Indigenous Papuans

This presentation aims to explore the impact of local migration among the indigenous Papuans of the Central Highlands in Indonesia’s easternmost and marginalized province of Papua. While migration has been seen as one of the main drivers of socio-ecological transformation in urban space, its impacts in rural areas have been poorly understood. Focusing on the shift of Papuan livelihoods and the re-organization of agriculture in the rural Highlands, this study discusses how migration has led to the feminization of poverty among the Papuans, and how women devise strategies of survival amidst a slow but radical social transformation going on in their communities.

Biography: Veronika Kusumaryati is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University (USA).