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Research project

Project for Innovation of Teaching Adat Law (PINTAL)

How can legal education in Indonesia become more relevant for graduates who will work in contexts of legal pluralism, aiming for social justice and providing legal services that common citizens need?

2023 - 2025
Jacqueline Vel
Ford Foundation Indonesia

The Van Vollenhoven InstituteThe Djojodigoeno Study Center  

For many Indonesian villagers adat is the legal system ruling relations between men, land, water and livestock. Central Sumba July 2023 © Almonika Sari

The PINTAL project is a collaboration initiative between the Indonesia researchers of the Van Vollenhoven Institute and the colleagues at the Law Faculty of Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta who teach courses about customary law or are involved in research about customary law, legal pluralism and law and society subjects.  PINTAL is the acronym for this project, but also, in the Indonesian language the word pintal means ‘to spin’, a traditional women’s activity in many customary communities. What we aim with this collaboration is that various researchers will spin their individual research and writing projects into one strong cable that will support innovating legal education in Indonesia. 

Follow-up of SLEEI
The project Strengthening Legal Education in Eastern Indonesia (SLEEI, 2019-2022) focused on 5 themes including “law in local context”. Adat (Customary) law is important in the daily lives of many Indonesians and a main constituent of ‘law in local context’ which refers to the local mix resulting from legal pluralism in a specific area. Meanwhile, in Indonesian Law Faculties teaching about adat law is commonly done in a doctrinal style, as a single subject, with emphasis on the structure of this legal system, definitions of the central concepts,  the internal rules and their consistency and ample attention to how all this was developed in the past (Simarmata 2018 (LINK)).  The blind spots in this approach include how adat works in present day societies, and how it articulates with other normative systems.

A second approach in SLEEI was not to just focus on improving the mandatory adat law courses, but instead regard ‘law in local context” from the perspective of socio legal studies. Experience in SLEEI indicated that in the regions in Eastern Indonesia law graduates are working in all kinds of positions in and outside the government where they face the increasing societal problems that call for tailor-made solutions in the field of law, for example land acquisition by large extractive industries, but also changing perceptions on how to solve disputes within families.  Law graduates need capacity to see which norms and rules are most prominent locally, and which institutions are most active in keeping local peace and justice. The picture shows legal pluralism, a mixture of state law, customary law, religious law and rules and norms from other sources like big companies, international treaties that are known locally through direct communication or via social media.

PINTAL’s challenge
In this second line of thought, the challenge in innovating legal education is to find a way to teach about “local law” (hukum lokal). Legal education on local law requires sound understanding of what legal pluralism is and skills to be able to see what the various normative systems entail and how they articulate. In depth knowledge about adat law in general and historically is still required, while it should be enhanced with research on how adat law in specific areas has changed and to which extent (and which fields of local life) its norms and rules are respected.

Innovation towards a law and society approach is not a matter of ideology but a societal necessity given the character of the many new issues and problems that common Indonesian citizens in the whole country face and for which they need help from experts educated.

PINTAL activities

  • Publishing a co-authored articles that will stimulate critical discussion in Indonesian Law Faculties
  • Organize a panel or round table in the Socio-legal Studies Conference in Jakarta in October 2024
  • Initiate the process for writing a Textbook for teaching Adat Law in context. Making a book proposal, and composing a team of editors.
  • Act as discussion forum for individual researchers’ projects that can contribute to innovating teaching about adat law
Starting new cooperation between VVI and the Djojodogoeno Institute at UGM, Yogyakarta 17 March 2023 © J. Vel
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