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The confession of a timber baron: Patterns of patronage on the Indonesian-Malaysian border

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This article explores the socio-economic significance of patronage at the edge of the Indonesian state. It argues that marginal borders and adjacent borderlands where state institutions are often weak, and state power continuously waxes and wanes, encourage the growth of non-state forms of authority based on long-standing patron-client relationships. These complex interdependencies become especially potent because of traditionally rooted patterns of respect, charismatic leadership, and a heightened sense of autonomy among borderland populations. The article contends that an examination of these informal arrangements is imperative for understanding the rationale behind border people’s often fluid loyalties and illicit cross-border practices, strained relationships with their nation-states, and divergent views of legality and illegality. The article contributes to recent anthropological studies of borders and believes that these studies could gain important insight by re-examining the concept of patronage as an analytical tool in uncovering circuits of licit and illicit exchange in borderlands.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIdentities - Global Studies in Culture and Power
Pages (from-to)149-167
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2012

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