Cultural Coercion in Indonesia

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Introduction to Cultural Anthropology Webster University Vienna Fall 2011

RESEARCH PAPER:

CULTURAL COERCION IN INDONESIA
Literature review of Murray Li, Tania (1999): "Compromising Power: Developement, Culture, and Rule in Indonesia". In: Cultural Anthropology 14(3), pp. 295-322

Vienna, 11.12.2011

Gregor Čorokalo

Introduction The age of globalization that we currently live in has certainly brought many changes to both our environment and the ways in which we live our lives. The process of globalization has influenced each and every one of us, some did not even see the changes coming and some have completely changes their lifestyle, subordinating themselves to the "globalized ideal". Indonesia is a country that is comprised by more than 10,000 small islands, each of them inhabiting people with unique cultures. As the world modernizes, there seems to be less and less tolerance for the peoples that do not live their lives according to the modernized globalization image. These are people from small communities that have lives their own way for centuries, developed their culture according to their needs and had seldom influence from the outside. Such peoples are today perceived as isolated, under-developed and primitive, because they do not modernize their habits according to the globalized image of the world. The Indonesian government therefore, in the search for modernization, implemented a program that would help the "isolated peoples" modernize. The cornerstone of this program has become development. Tania Murray Li has written an academic article that examines the process of developing Indonesia's isolated population. By reviewing her work in Indonesia, one gets a better look on how the government tried to impose development on the people, the main aims of such a program, and the end effects. The main aim of this paper is to further debate such governmental development attempts. Through a more detailed look at the Indonesian case, one can get a clearer picture of how cultures influence people and what does it take to develop a society. First of, a theoretical approach towards development will be taken in order for us to understand how governments and development attempts influence society and culture. Secondly, a more detailed look on the effects that this development program had on the Indonesian people will be taken. Combining these two approaches toward reviewing Tania Murray Li's work will offer us a better insight on cultures, how they work and in which ways can third-party actors actually influence them without harm.

Cultural Coercion for the Sake of Development "Relations of rule are cultural relations, formed and reformed in the context of specific discourses, practices, rituals, and struggles." (Murray Li, 1999: 295). Tania Murray Li begins her article with this quote and it seems appropriate for a review of her work to begin with the same words. Rule is a central concept when talking about development in societies. It is so because the source of rule (government in most cases) creates the scope and way of development, setting the criteria for the under-developed along the way. If rule is formed through cultural relations, there seems to be seldom space for cultural pluralism. This means that the party that rules sees its own culture as the central one and tries to subordinate and change other cultures accordingly. In countries where one culture prevails in the majority, such facts may not be very influential for its own cultural relations rule the majority of the population. Nevertheless, in an environment with many different cultures coexisting, the cultural relations that form rule soon act coercively, trying to shape others according to their mold. Development is therefore a project of rule and is seen "as a modern state's attempt at self-fashioning and rule, considered always as fragile and contingent accomplishments." (Murray Li, 1999: 295). Taking the case of Indonesia into...
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