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PhD Defence

Land rights and the forces of adat in democratizing Indonesia

Wednesday 9 January 2019
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof. A.W. Bedner
  • Prof. J.M. Otto


PhD defences are free; you do not have to register.


At the heart of many of the current land conflicts in Indonesia lies the government’s claim to more than 70 percent of all land, particularly in areas outside Java such as Sumatra, Borneo and Sulawesi. These disputes often lead to violent confrontations between farmers and the police or the military. This research is focussed on long-term land conflicts, in which citizens claim that as a traditional community, or adat community, they are entitled to land that has been confiscated by government bodies or plantation businesses. Since the fall of Soeharto in 1998, claims to land rights are increasingly made in the form of an appeal to collective adat community rights. In the early 1990s a large social movement arose, the so-called adat movement, which strives for the recognition of adat community rights.

Although adat land rights are recognised by law, they are often not granted. The government has discretionary powers to exclude groups, with the argument that they are not traditional enough to be viewed as an adat community. In addition, claims to adat land rights have less chance in conflict situations where influential private or public actors are involved.

In his conclusion, the researcher calls for more flexible and inclusive ways of formal acknowledgement. If more communities want to be considered for formal recognition of their land rights, a broader interpretation of the concept adat community and adat law community is needed. Van der Muur suggests, for example, a system in which recognition of land ownership would follow after having occupied or worked the land for a certain number of years.

PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

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