(P62AB) Subdued Clamor from Sumatra: Voicing alternative memories, narratives, and histories
Part 1Session 5
Thu 09:00-10:30 K10 | 2.25
Part 2Session 6
Thu 11:00-12:30 K10 | 2.25
Save This EventAdd to Calendar
Localization and Nationalization in the Politics and Culture of a Malay Province in Indonesia, 1945-1997
Tim Barnard National University of Singapore
Between 1945 and 1997 the peoples of central, eastern Sumatra fell under shifting political boundaries as the Indonesian state was established and unified regions throughout the archipelago. This presentation will trace the intertwining, and often clashing, forces of nationalism and local culture as residents of the region negotiated their position as participants and witnesses of a revolution against colonial rule to citizens of the province of Central Sumatra and then Riau. In each instance, national prerogatives often shaped the responses of local peoples – usually labelled as Malay – to the shifting economic and political powers being imposed on the region, manifesting itself in an enhanced pride in Malay identity and culture as a tool against the forces of centralization and nationalism.
Malay nobles, cultural activists, and the counternarrative of the 1946 social revolution in North Sumatra
Alan Darmawan Universität Hamburg
In the early formation of the Indonesian state, the so-called social revolution in East Sumatra marked dramatic socio-political and cultural changes: the killing and persecution of Malay royal families, the fall of the Malay traditional rules, and the integration of the region into the new Republic of Indonesia. For many decades since erupted in March 1946, this violent event has become a traumatic experience for most Malay aristocrats like those who are from Langkat, Deli, Serdang, Asahan, and other small principalities. Currently, after 70 years of the revolution, groups of the descendants of Malay nobles, cultural activists, and artists commemorated the event in public and promulgate another narrative stressing the violence from the perspective of the „victims“. This presentation focuses on such attempts and how the creation of memory and counternarrative is entangled with the revival of Malay kingdoms and the formation of Malay identity to become a dominant identity of North Sumatra and to obtain a reputation for a position as the host population.
Reconsidering the abolished divination practice of the buffalo offering (porbuhitan) in the social and political contexts of the Batak people
Roberta Zollo Centre for the study of manuscript culture
In the context of the manuscript culture of the Batak people, because of the very narrow domain in which manuscripts were produced and texts compiled, there has never been space for historical narrations or chronologies. The various written artefacts crafted, and the texts inscribed on such supports were, in fact, solely produced by and for the social category of the datus, magic healers and fortune-tellers, which were mainly interested in composing texts listing instructions to perform divination rituals or magic preparations, to be used as “aide-memoir” during the realization of the same rituals. In this paper, I will argue, however, that analysing the transmission and textual composition of a specific divination text can be of help in gaining a different perspective on some social and political dynamics, which narration has been completely monopolized by Western actors. Specifically, I will discuss the case of the porbuhitan texts, and the divination ritual described in these texts, which used to be performed in connection with the buffalo offering ceremonies.
According to the survey presented by Korn (1939), the Dutch Resident of the area of North Sumatra, the performance of these ceremonies was forcibly dismissed by the first German missionaries who arrived in the Batak area at the end of the 19th century, because of the brutality of the ritual and its incompatibility with the Christian precepts. I will challenge such reconstruction of the events, and question this “innocent” unawareness of the colonial establishment regarding the existence of such a ban, underlying how the forced dismissal of such divination pratique had a strong (and fatal) impact on the social cohesion of the small, and formerly autonomous, Batak communities.
Clamor from the Riau islands around the turn of the Millennium
Jan van der Putten Universität Hamburg
The turn of the millennium in the Malay world was a volatile period in which different parties took their opportunities to carve out a niche for themsleves and their followers, such as political activists and poets of Pekanbaru who screamed “Independence!”, and the Menteri Besar of Malacca pushed his Islamic agenda by making all rulers in the Malay world a member of his organisation to reinstate Melaka’s Islamic grandeur in days of yore. Also in the Riau islands the socio-political and cultural temperature rose fanned by the movement that would separate the islands from mainland Riau in 2004. In this paper I want to see how this rise of cultural heat is voiced in the poetry produced by cultural activists in the islands around that time and what their subdued clamor may tell us about cultural production in the Malay world in general.
Sowing the seeds of Malayness: the dynamics of regional culture in contemporary Riau
Al Azar Riau Institute of Malay Customs
The 1997 reforms have changed Indonesia’s authoritarian political order into a democratic one, and demolished the centralized government. Through the ‘Regional Autonomy Policy’ since 2000, provincial, district, and city governments have more authority to regulate their regions. They also get more profit sharing from state financial sources in their area. As a province with rich natural resources – oil and gas, forests, and oil palm plantations – Riau is emerging as one of the richest provinces in Indonesia. Therefore, the identity projects – Malayness – which have been driven by Riau intellectuals since the 1980s should be further developed. And in 2001, the executive and legislature of Riau Province issued a policy of Regional Regulation No. 36/2001 on the Riau Vision 2020, that states to make Riau Province a “Malay economic and Malay cultural center in Southeast Asia”. In fact, Riau’s exploitative political and economic agenda often clashes with previously imagined Malay cultural thoughts and practices. My presentation will describe the dynamics of the struggle for politics, economy and Malay culture in the Riau space in the last twenty years
Tools of Identity
Will Derks Independant researcher
In the early nineties of last century, urbanites of Pekanbaru, the capital of the then province of Riau, Indonesia, started a collective endeavour to define themselves as Malays. As a response to, amongst others, nation building policies as well as economic slight by the Soeharto government, certain individuals (as well as groups and institutions) in the provincial capital and beyond began to delineate what it could mean to be Malay rather than Indonesian, at that particular point in time, at that particular juncture. Together they developed a number of disparate tools, an inventory of dissimilar elements with which they tried to put together a Malay identity. This presentation will particularly focus on the variety of tools in this ‘identikit’ and, to some extent, on the actors involved: a mix of journalists, artists, and academics as well as politicians, officials, business people and professionals with strong cultural concerns and little respect for any barriers between spheres of thought.
The foundation of a nation entails the establishment of a shared imagination that can bond together its national citizens. For ex-colonized countries at the beginning of their independence, a common historical narrative and shared memories have been used as powerful tools to define a new national identity. In the case of Indonesia, which has achieved its independence through warfare, revolution, and diplomacy, the creation of national history and collective memory has revolved around anti-colonial sentiments melted with patriotic and heroic actions directed to safeguard the newborn nation. In this process, the central political authority has played the main role in determining an official historical narrative/narration of the new state and in fixing a set of shared cultural elements that could represent the national population as a whole. In the name of national unity, political stability, integration, and economic development, the central authority enforced the official narrative and memory, especially in the first 50 years of Indonesian independence. These efforts were, however, counterbalanced by strong oppression of and negotiations with other stories and perspectives, such as the ones of the regions or social groups in the periphery. After the fall of Soeharto’s authoritarian regime, the political decentralisation and a more relaxed control of the central power over local authorities paved the way for questioning the official narrative and memory. Bottom-up initiatives, locality, local identity, have started to contest the official version of history and tend to foreground perspectives, for instance from the victim’s perspective of the national revolution or other minor voices that have been ignored to this very moment. This panel focuses on the efforts of local communities on the island of Sumatra to subvert or counter centralising narratives, to create alternative memories and to encourage different ways of looking at the construction of the nation by bringing up unheard voices of the so-called “agents”, “victims”, and “witnesses” of all but forgotten historical events.