Environment Panel



In Search of Social-Ecological Transformation in Indonesia's Urbanizing Landscapes

À la recherche d'une transformation socioécologique dans les paysages urbanisés de l'Indonésie


Saturday, October 23, 2021


16:15 – 18:00

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Social-ecological transformation is a term that represents societal changes, which involves political and strategic aspects, to address the social-ecological crisis. Such crises include environmental degradation, hazards, and their unequal social impacts that have been the subject of discussions, critiques, and debates in Indonesia. Literature on the topic have shed light on the prevalence of disasters as combinations of natural hazards, development-induced environmental quality, and structurally perpetuated social inequalities. Whilst the distribution of social and environmental hazards and risks remain unequal, the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the elite few exacerbates social and spatial injustices, from the impacts of industrial pollution and disasters and displacement of traditional societies to problematic access to public services, to name a few. Given the entanglements of social, economic, political, ecological, and cultural aspects in the making of these inequalities, what are the necessary forms, factors, and actions of social-ecological transformation to address the crisis? To what extent does the COVID-19 disruption affect possibilities for social-ecological transformation? This panel critically discusses manifestations of the social-ecological crisis in Indonesia and possible avenues of social ecological transformation on various scales. Specific attention is given to the role of civil societies in constructing transformative knowledge and social movements towards sustainability.

Convenor/Animateur: Rita Padawangi, Singapore University of Social Sciences

Chair/Président: Merlyna Lim, Carleton University

Discussant/Intervenant: Rita Padawangi, Singapore University of Social Sciences

Event poster


Extended Agrarian Question in Concessionary Capitalism: The Jakarta’s Kaum Miskin Kota

Bosman Batubara, Department of Water Governance, IHE-Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft and the Department of Geography, Planning and International Development, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Noer Fauzi Rachman, Department of Psychology, University of Padjadjaran, Indonesia

This article recalibrates the agrarian question by using the ongoing explosion in urban and urbanization theories to explain Jakarta’s urban poor (the Kaum Miskin Kota, KMK) as an extended agrarian question. It does so by showing how the two capitalist development trajectories identified by Lenin, Russian, and the American paths, the feudal large- and small-scale landholders transformation into capitalists, are not the case for a near-South country like Indonesia, but a “concessionary capitalism” of large-scale land claims and allocations by the state. This specific process produces a specific agrarian question of soil/land and labour through which the KMK germinate. It closes with a political project, that is, to open more alliance-building possibilities between urban and rural social movements.

Moral Politics of Victimhood: Cultures of Social Movements to Cope with Indonesia’s Lapindo Mudflow, 2006

Anton Novenanto, Department of Sociology, Universitas Brawijaya, Indonesia; AIFIS-Luce visiting fellow, English Department, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Kansas, Lawrence

Environmental disaster victims are frequently perceived as powerless due to the physical and mental sufferings that they experience in the aftermath of geophysical hazards. They not only already had to lose their time, energy, and materials, they must also recover from all of the backwardness and abnormalities. Calling from a critical ethnography in doing longitudinal engaged research with victim groups and environmental activists, the paper aims to describe how victims of the Lapindo mudflow in Porong, East Java have been maintaining their victimhood and inventing their own agency to struggle in the battle of social construction of the event/process through ongoing, yet unequal power relations with other actors in power. Recalling and challenging various cultural, traditional features, narratives, and conceptions of power, they have emerged as one subject to shape the history of environmental social movements in a post-authoritarian Indonesia era.

Pantura Stories: Resistance and Healing Across Regimes of Progress

Hendro Sangkoyo, School of Democratic Economics

The defining terms of this panel, an affirmative social-ecological transformation amidst a growing urban dystopia, deserve a sober scrutiny of both the radical proposition and that hegemonic, knotty processes of change. The present schematic essay wishes to address such entanglements in the case of the so-called pantura, a shorthand for pantai-utara, conventionally designated for the north coast of Java Island. The pantura parlance as such reveals a serial chronospatial re-framing, not only of the dominant modes of life on Java, but also of the social mobilizatory regimes, the epoch-specific energy signature and its extractive lynchpin, the operational and institutional modalities of capital expansion, the spatial re-organizations of labour, and the run-away social-ecological entropy at all levels of life-forms therein. Whereas such a matrix of transmutation goes beyond the process of becoming urban, it is a part of a larger topogeny of organized misery, hidden behind the camera obscura of progress, yet which has always been embedded within the nonlinear life-story of industrial urbanism. Against such backdrop, the call for a countervailing transformation, a resistance at the broadest sense, must first address the dark sides of urbanism through an engaged social-learning practice across the pantura of historical lifespaces. Likewise, to move forward in such a crucial direction, it is imperative to confront the coded words such as ecological modernization, urban sustainability and resilience, energy transition, or nature-based solution, which thinly veil the same addiction to the extrinsic nature of urban social metabolism.

Unsettling the Urban: Migration, Indigeneity, and Urban Formation in Jayapura, West Papua

Esther Haluk, STT Walter Post, Jayapura, West Papua; Veronika Kusumaryati, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

This presentation aims to explore the impact of migration on socio-ecological transformations among the indigenous Papuans living in Jayapura, the capital city of Indonesia’s easternmost and marginalized province of Papua. While migration has been seen as one of the main drivers of socio-ecological transformation in the urban space, most studies on the formation of urban space in Indonesia have focused mainly on rural to urban migration. This study, on the contrary, will consider the broader regional study of inter-island migration and its impact on the indigenous population to examine how indigenous Papuans understand and frame this demographic change in their urban area. By focusing on the shift of Papuan livelihoods and their relationship with the land in the city, this study will also discuss how Papuans articulate and claim a political agency against the backdrop of complex political histories between West Papua and Indonesia.

Environmental Social Movements in Indonesia: Quo Vadis?

Rita Padawangi, Singapore University of Social Sciences; Merlyna Lim, Carleton University

Amidst intensifying attention to invite global investments for development projects, environmental activism remains a strategic angle to continue the political functioning of civic spaces in Indonesia. Environmental activism in the literatures have its normative and non-negotiable positioning on sustainable urban practices, but environmental issues are also potentially strategic to initiate civic discussions in places where social activism on other issues is limited (Marolt 2014; Sullivan and Xie 2009). Environmental activism has grown to be nuanced, as there are groups that work closely with government organizations while others are oppositional. As environmental campaigns have intertwined with technocratic approaches of environmental improvements, and green-sustainable development efforts align with popular yet development-oriented themes such as recycling and clean-green practices, to what extent are environmental social movements able to be political? What are the tools, spaces, and strategies for political environmental social movements? What are the possibilities and challenges in questioning imbalance of power in environmental sustainability, to address social inequalities and environmental injustices? How has the recent COVID-19 pandemic affected these social movement tools, spaces, strategies, possibilities, and challenges?

CCSEAS Conference 2021 | ccseas@yorku.ca