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Adat and Indigeneity in Indonesia

Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin


Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin

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  • 1 The research on which the chapter by Steinebach is based was carried out during a project within t (...)

1This volume presents the results of five years’ research on the processes of the propertisation of culture that have been carried out by the Research Unit 772 on The Constitution of Cultural Property (speaker: Regina Bendix), sponsored by the German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).1 Our research focused on the certification and heritisation of culture (nominations and listing of tangible and intangible UNESCO World Heritages) during the first three years. Since 2011, we have been investigating how “culture”, or more specifically adat (concepts of traditional ways of life and values), is shaped and deployed by various actors in Indonesia to define their identities, reclaim rights and property, and reposition themselves in the multi-ethnic state of Indonesia since the fall of the Suharto regime (1998).

2A workshop entitled “Adat between state governance and self-determined indigeneity in Indonesia” was held at Göttingen University in October 2011. The preliminary results of the most recent anthropological research on adat or rather on “indigeneity” in Indonesia were presented by scholars at this workshop, including our much-valued research fellow from Jakarta, Fadjar Ibnu Thufail, from the Göttingen projects, and also by a scholar from Bonn University. Since the struggles for recognition of a special adat particularly of “indigenous groups” in Indonesia can only be understood against the background of international conventions and aid programmes for the promotion of indigenous peoples, two scholars from the International Law Department of Göttingen University (Katja Göcke and Maria Victoria Cabrera Ormaza) were invited, as well as the well-known Indonesian lawyer and indigenous peoples activist, Sandra Moniaga, to present their perspective on the issue of indigeneity.

3The present volume mirrors this anthropological-international law co-operation and exchange of views on indigeneity. We are grateful that two lawyers from Indonesia, Yance Arizona and Erasmus Cahyadi, wrote an insightful paper on the current state of affairs on a special law on indigenous peoples in Indonesia.

4Francesca Merlan, the renowned anthropologist from the National University in Canberra and an expert on “indigeneity”, spent a month as a Fellow of the Research Unit at Göttingen in June 2013. We all benefitted tremendously from her lectures, the comments she gave on earlier versions of several chapters and her insights. She has written an Epilogue to the volume from an encompassing, comparative perspective. I would like to thank her for writing this important chapter, for her commitment and the fruitful discussions we had in a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

5This research only took place with the great help of our research partners in Indonesia: the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in Jakarta as a counterpart, and especially the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples (AMAN) and its General Secretary, Abdon Nababan, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), particularly the Samdhana Institute and several other NGOs and their representatives, as well as the many adat communities in different provinces in Indonesia. All of these allowed and helped the anthropologists to carry out their research. We would like to express our gratitude to all of them. Terima kasih banyak!

6All this work would not have been possible without the sponsors. I would like to thank first and foremost the German Research Council for generously sponsoring all the research projects mentioned, the Volkswagen Foundation (Volkswagen Stiftung), Hannover, for supporting the workshop in 2012, and also the Volkswagen Stiftung and the Ministry for Science and Culture of the Federal State of Lower Saxony and Göttingen University for the research professorship (Niedersachsenprofessur) they granted me. It is thanks to this professorship and its endowment that many complementary journeys, additional research, meetings, the temporary employment of additional research staff and assistants, as well as this publication became possible.

7July 2013


1 The research on which the chapter by Steinebach is based was carried out during a project within the Collaborative Research Centre 990, “Ecological and Socioeconomic Functions of Tropical Lowland Rainforest Transformation Systems (Sumatra, Indonesia)”, also based at Göttingen University.

© Göttingen University Press, 2013

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