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Call for papers: New law, new villages: Changing rural Indonesia

The 2014 Village Law will likely cause a considerable change in the character of village governance and leadership in the coming years.

KITLV aims to develop a research program that studies this change across Indonesia in a comparative manner: what will be the impact of Indonesia’s Village Law on the character of villages and their role in Indonesia’s economic and political development? The workshop organizers invite papers on empirical research in villages, for example on changing village leadership, the politicization of village life, or state-society relations at village level.  The workshop will take place in Leiden and is organized by KITLV in collaboration with Leiden University’s Van Vollenhoven Institute and the Asian Modernities and Traditions program (AMT), and the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights at the University of Oslo (NCHR).


Jacqueline Vel (VVI and KITLV), Ward Berenschot (KITLV) and Aksel Tømte (NCHR)

Dates workshop:

19 and 20 May 2016

Call for papers – Deadline: 11 March 2016

There is a new attention to village studies within anthropology after a long period with favor for more delocalized, and multi- sited studies about mobility and flows. Such a new approach on village studies would focus on different meanings assigned to villages, framed according to a variety of global developments in which they are core units. The new type of village studies “seek the general in the particular, and succeed in offering a view from the village of processes centering on the dynamics of cosmopolitanism and traditionalism, emplacement and mobility, and urbanity and rurality.”(Sorge and Padwe 2015). In a practical sense, in depth village level studies serve as an ideal and strategic site of empirical observation for research on state-society relations. It is the site where the citizens interact with their intermediaries who play an integral role in service accession.

The village has always been critical in Indonesian governance discourse. The village had a core role in the colonial governance system in the Dutch East Indies (Breman 1980, Dam 1937), it was at the center of New Order coercion mechanisms and subsequently the epi-center of democratic reform (Antlöv 2003). The new 2014 Village Law marks a considerable retreat for the Indonesian (national) state that, not too long ago, imposed its developmental policies on villages from above (Vel and Bedner 2015). This massive increase of responsibilities and budgets is likely to change the way in which most Indonesians perceive and interact with the state. Human rights principles – such as transparency, participation and accountability – are central to the Village Law. However, the transfer of government funds to the village level increases the potential for misuse of power at village level. On the other hand, if successfully implemented, the law could contribute to meeting some of Indonesia’s human rights obligations, such as those related to participation rights and the right to information. In Indonesia various agencies are initiating Village Law implementation studies, but so far there are few independent academic studies.

As the character of village governance and leadership stands to change considerably in the coming years, KITLV aims to develop a research program that studies that change across Indonesia in a comparative manner: what will the impact of Indonesia’s Village Law be for the character of villages and their role in Indonesia’s economic and political development?

For that purpose we will organize a one and a half -day workshop in Leiden for researchers working on Indonesia’s villages, to discuss the possible impacts of the new village law in relation to other socio-economic changes currently affecting village life in Indonesia. The workshop’s first aim is to discuss the possible impact of the Village Law in the context of these broader processes of social and economic change affecting rural Indonesia. Secondly, this workshop aims to discuss research design and methodologies for a future research program.

If you would like to participate in this workshop please submit an extended abstract (1000 words) on the changing character of village life in your areas of fieldwork, addressing one of the following themes:

  1. Village Leadership: How has the character of village leadership changed since the fall of the New Order, and how might the Village Law impact the relationship between villagers and their representatives?
  2. Politicization of village life: To what extent have economic, legal and political changes affected the character of social interaction and class divisions within villages?
  3. Village-State interaction: What practices, networks and exchanges do village leaders currently employ to gain access to the funds and services controlled by district and provincial governments, and how does or will the Village Law affect this pattern of village-state interaction?
  4. The villages in national politics: How is the village imagined in national policy making, and what are the politics behind the implementation of the Village Law and the increased responsibilities of the ministry of villages, transmigration, and disadvantaged regions?

You can submit your extended abstract to Jacqueline Vel (*protected email*) or Ward Berenschot (*protected email*)  before 11 March  2016. The number of participants will be limited. There is a small travel budget available.

In addition to this workshop we will organize a panel on the same theme at the 6th International Symposium of Journal of Anthropology Indonesia Department of Anthropology, University of Indonesia, 26-28 July, 2016, at University of Indonesia in Depok.

Antlöv, Hans. 2003. “Village government and rural development in Indonesia: the new democratic framework.”  Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies 39 (2):193-214.

Breman, Jan. 1980. The village on Java and the early colonial state: CASP, Erasmus University Rotterdam Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Dam, Wilhelmus Petrus van. 1937. “Inlandsche gemeente en Indonesisch dorp.” Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden.

Sorge, Antonio, and Jonathan Padwe. 2015. “The abandoned village? Introduction to the special issue.”  Critique of Anthropology 35 (3):235-247.

Vel, JAC, and AW Bedner. 2015. “Decentralisation and village governance in Indonesia: the return to the nagari and the 2014 Village Law.”  The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 47 (3):493-507.

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