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At the edges of states: Dynamics of state formation in the Indonesian borderlands

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This book rests on the premises that borders such as that between Indonesia and Malaysia offer an exciting study arena that can tell us important things about how marginal citizens relate to their nation-state and in particular how alliances, with their competing and multiple loyalties, are managed on a daily basis. The basic assumption is that central state authority in the West Kalimantan borderland has never been absolute, but waxes and wanes, and state rules and laws are always up for local interpretation and negotiation. I argue that in its role as key symbol of state sovereignty and maker of statehood, the borderland has become a place were central state authorities are often most eager to govern and exercise power. But as illustrated throughout this book, the borderland is also a place were state authority is most likely to be challenged, questioned and manipulated as local communities often have multiple loyalties that transcend state borders and contradict imaginations of the state as guardians of national sovereignty, territory and citizenship.

By demonstrating how local border communities creatively engage with the state I wish to revise a popular portrayal of these marginal communities as more or less passive victims of state power. By providing vivid evidence of the fragmented character of the Indonesian state this study challenges this view by showing that these relations are not so clear-cut. The special borderland features and the shifting extent of state power along the Indonesian Malaysian border, have created unique opportunities for some resourceful elite members of the border communities. Through their often intricate and historically complex networks of patronage with state agents and wider cross-border relations these local elites have positioned themselves as both patrons and brokers, controlling and regulating access to valuable natural resources along the border by becoming guardians of regional autonomy. Such acts of self-determination are most evident in the borderland studied where local communities historically have enjoyed a large degree of local autonomy.

Original languageEnglish
Place of publicationLeiden
PublisherKITLV Press
Number of pages356
ISBN (Print)9789067183741
Publication statusPublished - 2012
SeriesPower and Place in Southeast Asia

    Research areas

  • borders, borderlands, state formation, regional autonomy, sovereignty, Indonesia, Southeast Asia

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