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

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The Aesthetic Turn in Indonesian Border Governance: Border-Crossings Beautification, Infrastructural Violence, and Ruin as a Time-Space for Political Reorganization
Sindhunata Hargyono

Building: Soegondo Building
Room: 522
Date: 2019-07-25 01:00 PM – 02:30 PM
Last modified: 2019-06-21


The state power in Indonesian borderland waxes and wanes over time (Eilenberg 2012). The recent election of Joko Widodo marks a moment of waxing state present on the Indonesian borderland with his prioritization of border development program. I argue that this moment of waxing state presence marks the aesthetic turn in Indonesian border governance. This turn is characterized by the increasing importance of material appearance and aesthetic judgment (Ghertner 2015) in informing governing decisions on the border space. Furthermore, I argue that this turn becomes a structural failure when it results in the spotlighting of certain locations on the border while neglecting the others, especially the long-marginalized rural border area. Amid the celebration of the successful border governance, lives in the rural border area continue to be characterized by infrastructural disconnection and violence (Appel 2012). The condition of being exposed to structural violence, however, does not end the possibility of political actions. In the last part of the paper, I argue that infrastructural ruins which are emblematic to the continuation of the state’s structural violence in border village inaugurate a time-space for the possibility of generative political action.

Keyword: State Anthropology, Infrastructure Politics, Aesthetic Governmentality, Borderland



Appel, Hannah. 2012. “Walls and White Elephants: Oil Extraction, Responsibility, and Infrastructural Violence in Equatorial Guinea.” Ethnography 13 (4): 439–65.

Eilenberg, Michael. 2012. At the Edges of States: Dynamics of State Formation in the Indonesian Borderlands. Leiden: KITLV Press.

Ghertner, D. Asher. 2015. Rule by Aesthetics: World-Class City Making in Delhi. New York: Oxford University Press.