ASEAS 9(1) – Political Ecology and Socio-Ecological Conflicts

Issue 9(1) was published in June 2016. Find all article downloads below!


  • Political Ecology and Socio-Ecological Conflicts in Southeast AsiaMelanie Pichler & Alina Brad
    DOI 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-1
    pdficon_small Download PDF

Aktuelle Südostasienforschung / Current Research on South-East Asia

  • Multi-Functional Lands Facing Oil Palm Monocultures: A Case Study of a Land Conflict in West Kalimantan, IndonesiaRosanne Elisabeth de Vos
    DOI 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-2
    pdficon_small Download PDF

    This paper presents an ethnographic case study of a palm oil land conflict in a Malay community in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. The conflict occurred in the preparatory phase of a large-scale plantation, before any oil palms were planted. After protest from local communities, the project was abolished. This case enables an empirical enquiry of land tenure as well as the meaning of land and associated resources for people’s livelihoods in a pre-plantation situation. The article aims to understand how people’s responses to the oil palm plantation project are rooted in the way they give meaning to the land that is targeted for conversion. Using a functional analysis of property relations, the article shows that people value multiple functions of land, including food security, income security over generations, flexibility to respond to crises and opportunity, and the ability to retain autonomy and identity as farmers. One of the factors that contributed to the conflict was the expectation that a conversion of diversified agricultural land and forest into a monoculture plantation, run by a company, would change the functionality of land and associated resources in a way that would negatively impact livelihood opportunities, lifestyles, and identity.

    Keywords: Land Conflicts; Meaning of Land; Oil Palm; Property and Access; West Kalimantan
  • Assembling Resistance Against Large-Scale Land Deals: Challenges for Conflict Transformation in Bougainville, Papua New GuineaAnne Hennings
    DOI 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-3
    pdficon_small Download PDF

    Responding to the academic void on the impact of socio-ecological conflicts on peacebuilding and conflict transformation, I turn to resistance against large-scale land acquisitions in post-war contexts. Promising in terms of reconstruction and economic prosperity, the recent rush on land may, however, entail risks for reconciliation processes and long-term peace prospects. With reference to post-war Bougainville – as yet an autonomous province of Papua New Guinea – the article aims to conceptualize the impact of resistance against large-scale land deals on conflict transformation processes. Applying assemblage theory thereby allows not only analyzing multilayered dynamics in post-conflict societies but also new perspectives on socio-ecological conflicts. The findings suggest increasing resistance, for example, advocacy politics, demonstrations or sit-ins, against land deals and state territorialization in Bougainville with resemblances to pre-war contentious politics against Panguna mine. Yet, the lasting war trauma, a high weapon prevalence, and growing social friction add to destructive deterritorialization processes that are currently slowed down by the upcoming independence referendum.

    Keywords: Assemblage; Conflict Transformation; Land Grabbing; Papua New Guinea; Resistance
  • It Takes a Rooted Village: Networked Resistance, Connected Communities, and Adaptive Responses to Forest Tenure Reform in Northern ThailandKimberly Roberts
    DOI 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-4
    pdficon_small Download PDF

    Conflicts persist between forest dwelling communities and advocates of forest conservation. In Thailand, a community forestry bill and national park expansion initiatives leave little space for communities. The article analyzes the case of the predominantly ethnic Black Lahu village of Huai Lu Luang in Chiang Rai province that has resisted the threats posed by a community forestry bill and a proposed national park. The villagers reside on a national forest reserve and have no de jure rights to the land. This article argues, however, that through its network rooted in place and connected to an assemblage of civil society, local government, and NGOs, Huai Lu Luang has been able to stall efforts by the Thai government that would detrimentally impact their use of and access to forest resources.
    Their resistance is best understood not in isolation – as one victimized community resisting threats to their livelihoods – but in connection to place, through dynamic assemblages. A ‘rooted’ networks approach follows the connections and nodes of Huai Lu Luang’s network that influence and aid the village’s attempts to resist forest tenure reform.

    Keywords: Community Forestry; Ethnic Minorities; Resistance; Rooted Networks; Thailand
  • Philippine Mining Capitalism: The Changing Terrains of Struggle in the Neoliberal Mining Regime Alvin Almendrala Camba
    DOI 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-5
    pdficon_small Download PDF

    This article analyzes how the mining sector and anti-mining groups compete for mining outcomes in the Philippines. I argue that the transition to a neoliberal mineral regime has empowered the mining sector and weakened the mining groups by shifting the terrains of struggle onto the domains of state agencies and scientific networks. Since the neoliberal era, the mining sector has come up with two strategies. First, technologies of subjection elevate various public institutions to elect and select the processes aimed at making mining accountable and sensitive to the demands of local communities. However, they often refuse or lack the capacity to intervene effectively. Second, technologies of subjectivities allow a selective group of industry experts to single-handedly determine the environmental viability of mining projects. Mining consultants, specialists, and scientists chosen by mining companies determine the potential environmental damage on water bodies, air pollution, and soil erosion. Because of the mining capital’s access to economic and legal resources, anti-mining communities across the Philippines have been forced to compete on an unequal terrain for a meaningful social dialogue and mining outcomes.

    Keywords: Mining; Philippines; Political Economy of Development; Protest Politics; Resource Conflicts
  • Gaining Recognition Through Participatory Mapping? The Role of Adat Land in the Implementation of the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate in Papua, Indonesia Rosita Dewi
    DOI 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-6
    pdficon_small Download PDF

    Participatory mapping has recently become an instrument used by NGOs to advocate for adat (customary) land in Indonesia. Maps produced from participatory mapping are expected to support legal recognition through land formalization or titling. In order to stop land grabbing through the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) project, this strategy has also been applied in Merauke district, Papua. However, the pitfalls of communal participatory mapping have brought negative impacts to adat communities. This paper analyzes the land grabbing and mapping processes in three villages in the MIFEE area to show the unexpected consequences of participatory mapping. These mapping processes have caused fragmentation and conflict among adat communities. Furthermore, the legal recognition of communal adat land ownership is facilitating the buy-out of adat land by companies and/or the state.

    Keywords: Adat; Land Grabbing; MIFEE; Papua; Participatory Mapping
  • “Dry Feet for All”: Flood Management and Chronic Time in Semarang, Indonesia Lukas Ley
    DOI 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-7
    pdficon_small Download PDF

    This article describes flood management in poor communities of Semarang, a second-tier city on the north coast of Central Java, Indonesia. Using ethnographic material from participant observation and interviews, the article argues that flood management upholds an ecological status quo – a socioecological system that perpetuates the potential of crisis and structures of vulnerability. While poor residents have developed coping mechanisms, such community efforts follow the logic of maintaining a precarious minimum of safety. Designed in 2009, Dutch-Indonesian anti-flood infrastructure (polder) is supposed to put an end to tidal flooding, locally called rob. As a short-term project, the polder promises to regulate water levels and improve the lives of local residents. While it wants to make flood control transparent and accountable to riverside communities, the project ultimately fails to escape the institutional logic of chronic crisis management. By investigating the temporality and politics of the polder project, this article aims at contributing empirical and theoretical insights to scholarship on socioecological conflicts and crisis.

    Keywords: Crisis; Flood Prevention; Indonesia; Social Anthropology; Urban Political Ecology
  • Mimicry of the Legal: Translating de jure Land Formalization Processes Into de facto Local Action in Jambi Province, Sumatra Yvonne Kunz, Jonas Hein, Rina Mardiana, & Heiko Faust
    DOI 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-8
    pdficon_small Download PDF

    In Indonesia, as in many other countries of the global South, processes to formalize rights over land have been implemented with the intention to reduce deforestation, decrease poverty and increase tenure security. Literature on de jure processes of land formalization is widely available. There is a gap, however, on the discrepancy of de jure land titling procedures and de facto strategies to legitimize land claims. Led by the theoretical concepts of “law as process” and “politics of scale”, this study closes this gap by analyzing the impact of national tenure formalization processes on de facto local patterns of land titling. Using empirical material from 16 villages in Jambi province, we show that the outcomes of the state-led land reforms and land tenure formalization processes are imitated and translated into locally feasible actions. We refer to these translation processes as “mimicry of the legal”. The land formalization endeavors fostering mimicry of the legal allow for resource exploitation and rent-seeking behavior.

    Keywords: Indonesia; Land Reform; Land Tenure; Mimicry of the Legal; Politics of Scale
  • The State of Coal Mining in East Kalimantan: Towards a Political Ecology of Local Stateness Anna Fünfgeld
    DOI 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-9
    pdficon_small Download PDF

    The article aims at expanding political ecology research towards the role and constitution of states by demonstrating how local stateness is negotiated within conflicts over natural resources. It draws on a qualitative field study on the conflict over coal mining in East Kalimantan’s capital Samarinda, Indonesia, where certain characteristics of states, such as the monopoly of violence and the rule of law, are being affirmed, altered, or undermined through practices of state and non-state actors alike. These practices do not only challenge state representations, but also reveal the symbolic importance of ideas about the state. The theoretical framework is developed on the basis of Joel S. Migdal’s state in society approach together with a later work of Pierre Bourdieu and Philip Abrams’ thoughts about the nature of states.

    Keywords: Coal Mining; Indonesia; Political Ecology; Practice Theory; State Theory

Forschungswerkstatt / Research Workshop

  • Contested Frontiers: Indigenous Mobilization and Control Over Land and Natural Resources in Myanmar’s Upland AreasRainer Einzenberger
    DOI 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-9
    pdficon_small Download PDF

    Over the past two decades, Myanmar’s upland areas have gradually turned into formally administered, legible, and governable state-territory. Following decades of armed conflict, a series of ceasefire agreements since the 1990s opened the door for the central state’s expansion of territorial control in the upland areas through the exploitation of natural resources and land concessions. New civil society coalitions are being formed inside Myanmar to resist the states strategy of accumulation by dispossession in conjunction with enclosures and the formation of state territory. This paper provides a brief outline of an ongoing research project which takes a socio-spatial perspective on state building processes and links the concept of the resource frontier with emerging discourses on indigenous rights in Myanmar.

    Keywords: Frontier; Indigenous Movements; Land; Myanmar; State Building
  • Assembling the ‘Field’: Conducting Research in Indonesia’s Emerging Green EconomyZachary R. Anderson
    DOI 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-9
    pdficon_small Download PDF

    New forms of environmental governance, such as the green economy, premise reconfigurations of social relations and rearticulations of scale, which raise myriad questions for field researchers, not least of all, what actually constitutes ‘the field’, and where it is to be found. These questions – practical, methodological, political, and personal – are integral to research itself and can tell us much about the dynamic forms that social organization and emerging governance structures take in practice. This contribution discusses the methodological challenges associated with ‘doing fieldwork’ in the amorphous networks of an emerging environmental governance assemblage – the green economy. Drawing on my fieldwork in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, I argue that by interrogating the positionality of different actors in relation to this assemblage, while remaining critically reflexive about one’s own role in this production, field researchers can capture something of the rich embodied practices through which knowledge is produced and exchanged. Moreover, this relational focus on networks of knowledge, actors, and policy can help us to explore the processes of translation and negotiation that underlie the implementation of new forms of environmental governance.

    Keywords: Assemblage; Fieldwork; Green Economy; Indonesia; Methodology

Im Dialog / In Dialogue

  • “Some of the Best Movement People Are Political Ecologists at Heart”: An Interview About Political Ecology With Nancy Peluso Melanie Pichler
    DOI 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-9
    pdficon_small Download PDF

    Nancy Peluso pioneered political ecology research in Southeast Asia with her book on Rich Forest, Poor People (1992) that untangles peasant resistance and state control in Indonesian forest politics. Since then, the professor of political ecology at UC Berkeley, California, has done extensive ethnographic research on the effects of social difference (ethnic identity, class, gender) on resource access and control, dealing with forests, land, mining, and water conflicts in Indonesia and Malaysia. Her recent work investigates the relationships between migration and environmental change. Melanie Pichler spoke with her during the International Conference of the European Network of Political Ecology (ENTITLE) from 20 to 24 March in Stockholm where she delivered a keynote lecture on the unexpected impacts of women’s migration on the environment in a forest village in East Java. During the interview, Nancy reflected on current trends in political ecology research, the potential pitfalls of indigenous peoples’ rights, the contradictory role of NGOs in socio-ecological conflicts, and the potential of political ecology research beyond academia.

    Keywords: Indigenous Peoples; Interview; Migration & Environment; Political Ecology; Political Forests