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

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Staging Criminal Bodies: Public Shaming and the Theater of Punishment in Aceh
Reza Idria

Building: Soegondo Building
Room: 522
Date: 2019-07-26 08:00 AM – 09:30 AM
Last modified: 2019-06-21


This present study is part of my larger research project that examines a wide range of social and political impacts emerged from the state implementation of Sharia (Islamic Law) in the Indonesian province of Aceh. Public caning or hukum cambuk is notably one of the most significant and controversial aspects of the implementation of the law in the region. Since 2006, hundreds of Acehnese, Muslims and non-Muslims, have been caned in public after this form of medieval  torture being regulated and implemented through the machinery of modern government. While acknowledging one of the political functions of the spectacle of punishment is to communicate the state’s power in the sense developed by Michel Foucault (1977), my work focuses on the carnivalesque atmosphere of the public canings in Aceh. I argue that the theatricality, the inversion, the grotesque and the comic derive from the ways in which the criminals, the state authorities and the spectators interact during the ritual of public canings in Aceh not only come up as “the unintended consequences” (Ferguson1994, Coleman & Simpson 1999, Dahl 2009) of how the Aceh society reacting to a new form of discipline but they also display an ambiguous negotiation between different forms of power over what Sharia might actually mean in contemporary Aceh.