Workshop Review: Adat between state governance and self-determined indigeneity in Indonesia

Concentrating on the issues addressed in CP sub-project Cultural Heritage Between Sovereignty of Indigenous Groups, the State and International Organizations in Indonesia, this interdisciplinary workshop, organized by Prof. Dr. Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and Serena Müller, M.A. took place on October 13 and 14th, 2012. Nearly forty participants from social anthropology and international law discussed Adat within the conference rooms of Göttingen’s historic observatory.

The program opened with introductory papers by Prof. Dr. Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin (Göttingen), Katja Göcke, LL.M. (Sydney, MPI for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg/Göttingen University) und Maria Victoria Cabrera Ormaza, LL.M. (Göttingen). They discussed indigeneity in international declarations and conventions and in international law, enriched with ethnographic examples drawn from the various regions where Göttingen colleagues and associates are presently conducting work.

Sandra Moniaga, SH, spoke as legal expert on indigeneity in Indonesia. She connected a survey oft he legal situation and current developments with examples from the Kaneke in Western Java. As a longtime activist in the Indonesian indigneous movement, she was able to provide deep insights into the present situation and ist political background.

During the second day, adat was discussed on the basis of ethnographic examples. They ranged from Sumatra (Dr. des. Stefanie Steinebach, Göttingen, SFB 990) to Sulawesi (Dr. Karin Klenke, Göttingen, and Anna-Teresa Grumblies, M.A., Köln), Bali (Prof. Dr. Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin) and the Moluccas (Serena Müller, M.A.). The papers clarified commonalities as well as differences in the understanding of adat held by individuals and groups and illustrated the range of possibilities for indigenous agency that have evolved from international agreements. The presenters were also able to show how social structures transform or solidify in part due to these new possibilities. Adat stands for the demand for rights and claims – interpreted and used differently depending on the region. Participants discussed indigenous groups that are more egalitarian in their social organization aswell as more hierarchically organized groups. Dr. Fadjar Thufail (LIPI, Jakarta, research associate of the Göttingen Cultural Property Group) presented different types of networks established among the descendents of regional royal families. They make use of adat among other things to reclaim their former estates from the Indonesian state. Indirectly, they thus plead for the recognition of a stratified society within an Indonesian state that stands for the equality of its citizens.

The ethnographic examples dovetailed extremely well and encouraged the engaging and enriching interaction between international lawyers and social anthropologists. This was evident particularly also in the final discussion during which the different projects were brought together and scrutinized jointly from theoretical vantage points. The workshop papers will be published in a volume within the Cultural Property series of Göttingen University Press.

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