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Call for papers: International Conference 'Adat Law 100 years on: towards a new interpretation?'

The Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society (VVI), in collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), will organize a two day conference on the continued importance of adat law in present day Indonesia on 22 and 23 May 2017.

In 2017 it will be exactly a century ago that the Adat Law Foundation (Adatrechtstichting) was established by the renowned Leiden scholars Van Vollenhoven and Snouck Hurgronje. Altogether this foundation would publish some 43 volumes on adat law, as a result of the probably largest legal research project ever carried out at Leiden University. Although the Foundation was dissolved in 1974, adat law has continued to be a highly topical and socially relevant theme in present day Indonesia. It still provides the legal basis for the state’s recognition of indigenous communities and their land rights. However, such use of adat is contested. Some argue that it offers the only pathway to justice for many marginalised groups, whereas others question the exclusive and often hierarchical nature of adat communities in a multi-cultural society. This has led to sometimes bitter debates between proponents and opponents of a continued role for adat.

In 2004 a conference organised by David Henley and Jamie Davidson, with the name “Adat revivalism in Indonesia’s democratic transition,” examined the situation of adat law during the early years of the post-Suharto period. The present conference aims to provide an update and to look at the current legal, social and political meaning of adat law, the way it is being invoked and how it is deployed for a variety of purposes. The key question is what the relevance of adat law is in present-day Indonesia.

The conference will consist of four panels. If you would like to participate, please submit a short bio data or CV and an extended abstract (1000 words) on the changing role of adat law addressing one of the following themes:

1. Land rights and land disputes. Has adat law recently gained a new role in defining land rights and resolving (or creating) land disputes? What are the outcomes of processes in which the issue of adat communities features prominently? How can we explain this?

2. Adat law as an identity. What is the role of adat law in new discourses on Indonesian national identity? When adat law is used for identifying indigenous communities, how does it relate to social exclusion and conflict? How does adat law support local groups to acquire tourism projects?

3. Local institutions in the context of national decentralization policies. What is the role of adat institutions in current village or district governance? Why have specific adat institutions been suitable for bringing public services closer to the people (one of the goals of decentralization)? How does adat law relate to state law in practice, in matters of local governance?

4. Adat and religion.  In which circumstances have adat law and religion been mutually supportive, and to the benefit of whom? Or is the gap between adat law and religious law increasing, so as that they are becoming contesting systems? If so, why?

You can submit your short bio data or CV and extended abstract to Willem van der Muur and Jacqueline Vel (vollenhoven@law.leidenuniv.nl) before 31 January 2017. The number of participants will be limited. There is only a limited travel budget available for speakers from Indonesia.

Venue of the conference: Museum Volkenkunde (The National Museum of Ethnology) - Leiden


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