Negotiating autonomy at the margins of the state: The dynamics of elite politics in the borderland of West Kalimantan, Indonesia

Michael Eilenberg

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    Recent processes of decentralization have dramatically changed local political configurations and access to resources throughout Indonesia. In particular, the resource-rich regions at the margins of the state have, in the name of regional autonomy, experienced new spaces for manoeuvre in their claims for a larger share of forest resources. By stressing the unfolding relationship between local ethnic elites and the state, and their different strategies in negotiating and claiming authority over forests within Indonesia's changing forest regimes, the paper examines how local-level politics has taken on its special configuration in the remote border region of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. The author demonstrates this by focusing on the ongoing struggle over forest resources and by tracking the fate of a political movement for a new district in this resource-rich region. The paper further examines how current local elite strategies and networks can be related back to the period of border militarization in the 1960s and, once again, how these seem to challenge the exclusivity of the Indonesian-Malaysian border. The main argument is that central authority in the borderland has never been absolute, but waxes and wanes, and thus that state rules and laws are always up for local interpretation and negotiation, although the degree of such negotiation changes depending on the strength of the central state.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalSouth East Asia Research
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)201-227
    Number of pages27
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • Regional autonomy
    • Loval elite
    • Forest
    • Borders
    • Pemekaran
    • West Kalimantan

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