Universitas Indonesia Conferences, 7th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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When Anderson meets Samin: The Common Project and Its Fragments
Amrih Widodo

Building: Soegondo Building
Room: 709
Date: 2019-07-23 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2019-06-21


Having been subjected to colonial, national and global discursive practice, Indigenous peoples have been defined as being anchored to a locality, adverse to mobility, resistant to modernity and anti-technology. After more than a century of integration through development programs during colonial and post-colonial eras, the indigenous people have paradoxically remained marginalised from the mainstream population groups, particularly with regard to land claims, access to policy making and participation in national discourse.  Questions arise on whether these marginalised population groups have a right to remain unintegrated into the national mainstream culture when the loyalties demanded by nation-states encourage that common cultural standards are necessary?  What have been the social and discursive mechanisms which contribute to the inclusion and exclusion of these groups into the national community?

Recognized as one of the longest lasting social movements in Southeast Asia, especially for their curious position in the national and local social memory, the Samin people have demonstrated their strategic resilience in adapting to modernizing post-colonial Indonesia, while insisting on their uniquely non-compliant identity. This paper is an historiographical and ethnographic account of the Samin community in Central Java, an Indigenous peasant community whose members have been notoriously known for their eccentric behaviours and puzzling language use in resisting against forms of political and cultural incorporation for more than a century.

In explicating Anderson’s idea of Indonesia as a common project, it will particularly focus on depicting the curious position of the Samin people as manifested in their political and symbolic practices. The paper will further discuss the position of peasantry in the dynamic relationship between indigeneity, modernity and environment, while toying with the idea of how this “cultural apparatus of signs and meanings” (Chatterjee, 1993) may fit or challenge Herzfeld model of “cultural intimacy” (Herzfeld, 1997).

Keywords: indigeneity, peasantry, modernity, cultural intimacy, environment