The Politics of Aristocracy in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia: Evidence from the Field


After Indonesia’s democratisation began in 1998, some areas have witnessed the political revival of local aristocrats, while in other areas, the traditional nobility failed to stage a comeback. This post-fieldwork seminar is an attempt to explain this variation in outcomes (successful revival in some areas, failure in others) in Indonesian politics. The talk will explore five case studies: Yogyakarta, Ternate, Ubud, Gowa and Palembang. According to the preliminary findings of my research, the political performance of aristocrats was to a large extent determined by the extent to which they were able to defend or revitalize their economic resource basis. Those who over time had held on to their traditional basis of economic power (mostly land) or successfully created new economic opportunities had, when the transition began, the necessary resources available to compete in elections or seek other positions of power. If, on the other hand, they had lost their land and had found no way of substituting for their economic loss, they were likely to be only marginal figures in local politics. In this context, the seminar will explore whether the success rates of aristocrats was a function of their membership of either a coastal or inland aristocracy. In addition, it will also investigate to what degree internal infighting within aristocratic houses had an impact on their level of political success, and what the sources of these conflicts have been.


About the Speaker

Bayu Dardias, a PhD candidate in the Department of Political and Social Change in the ANU’s Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, did his fieldwork in Indonesia from September 2014 until March 2015. He received his BA from Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta (2002) and completed his Master of Public Policy at ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy in 2009. In 2010, Bayu became a lecturer in the Department of Politics and Government, UGM. During his fieldwork in ten Indonesian provinces, he interviewed more than twenty prominent Sultans and Rajas.

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