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State of Authority: The State in Society in Indonesia

State of Authority
Gerry van Klinken and Joshua Barker, eds.
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A major realignment is taking place in the way we understand the state in Indonesia. New studies on local politics, ethnicity, the democratic transition, corruption, Islam, popular culture, and other areas hint at novel concepts of the state, though often without fully articulating them.This book captures several dimensions of this shift. One reason for the new thinking is a fresh wind that has altered state studies generally. People are posing new kinds of questions about the state and developing new methodologies to answer them. Another reason for this shift is that Indonesia itself has changed, probably more than most people recognize. It looks more democratic, but also more chaotic and corrupt, than it did during the militaristic New Order of 1966–1998.State of Authority offers a range of detailed case studies based on fieldwork in many different settings around the archipelago. The studies bring to life figures of authority who have sought to carve out positions of power for themselves using legal and illegal means. These figures include village heads, informal slum leaders, district heads, parliamentarians, and others. These individuals negotiate in settings where the state is evident and where it is discussed: coffee houses, hotel lounges, fishing waters, and street-side stalls.These case studies, and the broader trend in scholarship of which they are a part, allow for a new theorization of the state in Indonesia that more adequately addresses the complexity of political life in this vast archipelago nation. State of Authority demonstrates that the state of Indonesia is not monolithic, but is constituted from the ground up by a host of local negotiations and symbolic practices.

What the reviewers are saying…

This book offers an engaging contribution to the study of the state and society in post-New Order Indonesia … This ethnography of the state is wonderfully presented in seven case studies … [which] are very imaginative and rich in detail.Contemporary Southeast Asia

The book’s focus on everyday politics is a welcome contribution to a discourse on changing state–society relations in Indonesia that is being dominated by the development industry and its obsession with “civil society” organizations. South East Asia Research

These closely worked case studies are a significant contribution to research on the complexities of political and social life in democratic Indonesia. Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies

[T]his volume’s combination of superb case studies, topical breadth, and state-of-the-field theorizing makes this book required reading for all students of contemporary Indonesian politics and society. Bijdragen


Gerry van Klinken is a permanent research fellow with the KITLV research program in Leiden that led to the present book. After a previous career teaching physics and geophysics in Southeast Asia, he moved to Asian Studies with a dissertation in history in 1996. His most recent monograph is Communal Violence and Democratization in Indonesia: Small Town Wars (Routledge, 2007). 

Joshua Barker is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. He received his BA from Trent University, his MA from SOAS, and his PhD from Cornell University. He has held postdoctoral fellowships in Indonesia, the Netherlands, and Sweden. His research examines urban transformation, crime and security, and new technologies. He is a contributing editor to the journal Indonesia.

Sample Chapters

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