Pandemic Panel



Impacts and Responses in Indonesia and Timor-Leste

Impacts et réponses en Indonésie et au Timor-Leste


Friday, October 22, 2021


17:45 – 19:30

VenueVenue 1Venue 1


Chair/Président: John Roosa, University of British Columbia

Discussant/Intervenant: John Roosa, University of British Columbia

Event poster


Learning from Ritual: COVID-19 Public Health Measures and Messaging in Timor-Leste

Susanna Barnes, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Saskatchewan

In this paper, I reflect on the significance of ritual activity directed towards COVID-19 in Timor-Lest. What, if anything, it tells us about East Timorese beliefs and attitudes regarding infectious disease and why understanding the cultural dimensions of infectious disease are critical to public health responses. For the majority of the population of Timor-Leste, especially those living in rural areas, lived experiences of illness and disease are interpreted primarily through and by customary beliefs and practices. Drawing on social media posts and press media circulated widely in Timor-Leste and among East Timorese diaspora, I examine the scope and content of COVID-19 rituals in Timor-Leste. I argue that the rituals directed towards COVID-19 demonstrate a clear understanding of the nature of infection, contamination, disease, models of causality, and fears around infection. They also reveal local capacities to contain epidemics and the ability to learn with the bio-medical response. The levels of participation observed in COVID-19 rituals online and local support for these initiatives expressed on social media suggests at the very least that health authorities should engage with local communities in a two-way dialogue to discuss beliefs and existing prevention strategies that can assist and support public health objectives and measures.

Penal Populism and Biopolitics in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Indonesian Experience

Harison Citrawan, Research Agency under the Indonesian Ministry of Law and Human Rights; Sabrina Nadilla, Research Agency under the Indonesian Ministry of Law and Human Rights

Prisoners are widely considered as one of vulnerable groups in time of pandemic. This nature of vulnerability has been the cause voiced by the Indonesian prison administration when invoking early release and parole to almost 40,000 prisoners during the outset of COVID-19 outbreak in the country. However, the policy was challenged by public’s receptivity on two crucial issues: fairness of the inmate selection and public security threat resulting from the decision. In this sense, the Indonesia’s experience in dealing with prisoners’ lives during the crisis depicts an explication of biopolitical practice; a power to organize and produce life of a population. Through the lens of biopolitics, in which the law works between government and discipline, this article suggests that during the pandemic, this technological power over bodies could be circumscribed by penal populism—leading a way to a new normal of undemocratic penal system. In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic is pivotal for discipline and punishment to consider the inclusive nature of democracy rather than enmeshed in a stigmatized, punitive culture.

“Not With the Government’s Vaccine”: Narratives and Consequences of People Refusing the Government’s Vaccine in Indonesia

Dimas Iqbal Romadhon, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington

In Indonesia, many scientifically literate people refuse to be vaccinated if the vaccine and the vaccination are provided by the government. Why do they refuse the government’s vaccine? What are the consequences of this refusal? What does this kind of refusal tell us about issues of trust and authority behind state securitization projects in general and national vaccination programs in specific? Based on data collected from interviews and observations in Banda Aceh and Malang, Indonesia, in 2018–2019, I explore the complex entanglement between public health, trust, securitization, and the politics of authority behind the refusal. I also discuss possible public health and sociopolitical consequences of this kind of refusal.

Asset Liquidation and Localizing Pilgrimage: The Absence of Tourism in Bali during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Ario Seto, Memorial University of Newfoundland

This paper discusses tourism workers’ financial and spiritual strategies in Bali during the COVID-19 pandemic years. Attracting around six million international visitors annually, Bali is one of world’s largest tourist destinations and in the wake of the pandemic, the provincial government quickly locked the island down to limit people’s mobility. Prior to 2020, around 15 per cent of permanent residents are employed in tourism-related sectors. The absence of tourism has left streets, hotels, performance halls, and art markets empty, and nearly 28 per cent of tourism workers have been laid off. Real unemployment numbers, however, is likely larger than recorded as many employers decided to send their workers home without officially terminating their work contracts so there would be an available workforce once the lockdown lifted.

Unemployment has resulted in personal destitution as massive unemployment stresses social safety nets. Modes of social reciprocity have failed to function when most members of a cohort, for example, villages with a large group of tourism workers or extended family with members working in the tourism industry, are laid-off. Balinese people have tackled this situation with two common strategies. First, to secure daily consumption, impacted workers sell their belongings, including work assets, such as art equipment and motorcycles. Second, because of their financial precariousness, Hindu Balinese have reduced the scales of their rituals and offerings. Both realistic decisions were chosen only with anxiety since Balinese people started to realize that they cannot rely on tourism—which in Bali has become a cultural identity—to sustainably support religious practices. The pandemic years thus mark a period of livelihood disorder that led to a rebellious reflection on Balinese cultural identity.

CCSEAS Conference 2021 |