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

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Mudflow Disaster and Colonized Sediments: Fractal Memory, Colonial Mutation, and the Making of the Londo Blangkon State
Fathun Karib Satrio

Last modified: 2022-06-04


In May 2006, an underground blowout triggered by Lapindo Corporation's drilling activity generated mudflow that destroyed surrounding villages in Porong subdistrict, Sidoarjo, East Java, Indonesia. Ten years ago, while researching post-disaster land politics, I met Cak Untung, one of the survivors with an unusual experience. From Cak Untung, I learned a local concept of intermediary called londo blangkon, describing the role of local villagers who work as kaki tangan (henchmen) for the corporation and the state in mediating land transactions. In the colonial past, londo blangkon refers to villagers working as brokers and collaborators of Dutch colonizers. This chapter will elaborate on villagers' sense-making in the mudflow disaster and its connection to fractal memory. It will develop the concept of colonial sediments (Stoler 2016, ix, 339) and ask, despite Indonesia's independence in 1945, why did Porong villagers continue to experience a new form of colonial relations? Colonial sediments are layers of historical experience between colonizers and colonized people in asymmetric social relations. At the same time, colonized sediments are layers of colonized people experiencing dispossession through power relations and inequality in the frontier. The first section will explore Cak Untung's past experiences as a son of ludruk traditional performance artist that enabled him to recognize londo blangkon as a vocabulary from the colonial past in encountering power relations in post-disaster situations. Ludruk, as a local form of art performance, contains storage of Porong people's collective memory of their nenek moyang (ancestors) views of the colonial past. One of the memories in the performance is about londo blangkon and local anti-colonial heroes' characters like Untung Surapati. From his story, I found Cak Untung's sense-making reflects a fractal memory of the colonial past by associating his experience encountering power in mudflow post-disaster. Fractal memory is a fragment of remembering and recollection of the past that is connected to fractal resistance. Fractal, in this sense, is partial or fragments where every memory of the past cannot be entirely stored and appear partially in remembering the past. The specific form of fractal resistance that will be examined in this chapter is anti-colonial resistance. The following section will discuss Frantz Fanon's anti-colonial ideas with Pramoedya Ananta Toer's historical novel and bring us to anti-colonial imagination in fiction but connected to the history of peasants in colonial sugar plantations at Porong, Sidoarjo. Both Cak Untung and Pramoedya's stories connected to fractal memories of anti-colonial resistance through Untung Suropati, a legend of anti-colonial hero for villagers across East Java. The third and fourth sections will examine the limit of decolonial imagination and the process of Indonesian elites' colonial mutation in making what I call the londo blangkon state. Cak Untung and Pramoedya's experiences with state repression illustrate the state's recursive colonial character in post-colonial Indonesia. Independence and decolonization do not break the state's colonial practice. Instead, Indonesian post-independence political elites and state officials undergo colonial mutation by becoming rulers who follow the former colonialists' footsteps governing Indonesia.

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