Universitas Indonesia Conferences, The 8th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Resilience and Resistance: An Anthropological Critique of the Governmental Response to the 2018 Disaster (Earthquake, Tsunami and Liquefaction) in the Palu Region
Gregory (Greg) Lawrence Acciaioli, Muhammad Nasrum, Andi Akifah

Last modified: 2022-05-27


Our paper presents an anthropological critique of the governmental response to the triple disaster – earthquake, tsunami and liquefaction—of September 2018 in the region centred on Palu, Central Sulawesi. The government’s master plan or rencana induk (Pemerintah Provinsi Sulawesi Tengah 2018) for the disaster response was based on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (United Nations 2015; Pearson and Pelling 2015), with its underlying principle of ‘build back better’. We critique core concepts underlying this principle, such as ‘vulnerability’ (Bankoff & Hilhorst 2022) and ‘resilience’. The presentation also analyses deficiencies in the staged realisation of this plan, including the disparity of its pronounced targets and the actual achievements in such contexts as provision of housing infrastructure, both temporary (hunian sementara or huntara) and permanent (hunian tetap or huntap), schemes for economic recovery in the agriculture and fishery sectors, and trauma healing. It provides examples of resistance to these programs that exemplify how a systems-oriented resilience approach overlooks the operation of power relations and, reciprocally, potentials for local agency (Bollig 2014). We particularly concentrate on how the system of public-private partnerships involving governmental cooperation with NGOs and foundations has led to some systematic oversights and exclusions, leading to such outcomes as the continuing residence of some of the affected urban poor in temporary housing (huntara) years after the actual disaster. Based upon our analysis of the deficiencies of the governmental responses, the disparities between announced procedures and actual realisations, and some of the aspirations that our ethnographic research uncovered from overlooked constituencies, we suggest alternative approaches to reconstruction that stem from a more participatory perspective informed by principles of applied anthropology.


Bankoff, Greg and Dorothea Hilhorst (eds) 2022 Why Vulnerability Still Matters: The Politics of Disaster Risk Creation. Milton Park: Routledge.

Bollig, Michael 2014 Resilience: Analytical Tool, Bridging Concept or Development Goal? Anthropological Perspectives on the Use of a Border Object. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (ZfE) / Journal of Social and Cultural Anthropology (JSCA) 139(2): 253-279.

Pemerintah Provinsi Sulawesi Tengah 2018 Rencana Induk Pemuliahn dan Pembangunan Kembali Wilayah Pascabencana Provinsi Sulawesi Tengah. Palu: Pemerintah Province Sulawesi Tengah. https://monitoring.skp-ham.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Rencana-Induk-Sulawesi-Tengah.pdf/ Accessed 04 04 2022.

Pearson, Lucy and Mark Pelling 2015 The UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-203: Negotiation Process and Prospects for Science and Practice. Journal of Extreme Events 2(1). https://irdr2.iwengweng.cn/uploads/files/2020/08/F6e6v62P9UbAFPSA8m7y6T5Vy028KDRWfbpgVKVX/Pelling-and-Pearson-SFDRR-Negotiation-process-and-prospects-for-ST-Sept-2015.pdf. Accessed 05 05 2022.

United Nations 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. https://www.preventionweb.net/files/43291_sendaiframeworkfordrren.pdf . Accessed 05 05 2022.


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