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Organizer and Chair: Leonard Y. Andaya, University of Hawaii, Manoa
Discussant: Judith Nagata, York University
Although the study of ethnicity has long been a subject of inquiry by anthropologists, with a few notable exceptions, other academic disciplines have been slow to pursue this subject. The result has been that ethnic identity formation has often been treated as a recent phenomenon which has arisen as a result of the impact of colonialism, the nation-state, and global forces. It is hoped that this panel will extend the debate on ethnicity by bringing together historians, anthropologists, and a specialist in language and literature. They will be using kidung literature, Malay and Acehnese texts, Dutch East India Company records, Batak oral and written traditions, and Sakai oral tales to examine ethnic identity formation among the Balinese and Acehnese in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Karo Batak in the nineteenth and twentieth, and the Sakai in the twentieth century. While the paper-givers are well aware of the ongoing debate between primordialists and situationalists, their findings have demonstrated the closely interwoven and dialectal process of boundary-making and "ethnic essences." All share a common interest in the manner that the group asserts its identity via a dominant "Other," either Malay or Javanese. Of particular value will be a comparison of the oral and written, as well as the court and village, approach to the formation of ethnic identity.
The "Javanization" of Bali: Creating Cultural Identities
Helen Creese, University of Queensland
The claims of the fourteenth-century Javanese kingdom of Majapahit to hegemony over much of the Indonesian archipelago continued to be the cornerstone of regional identity long after the memory of its greatness had faded in Java itself. Majapahit was pivotal in the creation of Balinese identity and remained the underlying motif of premodern Balinese historical discourse until the Dutch conquest in the early twentieth century. From at least the seventeenth century, success was measured by the extent that rulers, their courts, and subjects paralleled those of pre-Islamic Java. This political, social and cultural "Javanization" of Bali intensified as the Majapahit ideal became ever more useful to Balinese rulers. The Balinese sought to distance themselves from an increasingly Islamic Java and to seek favor with the Dutch, the newest power in the archipelago. They did this by retreating from their own history and forming a new Balinese identity that drew on links with Javas Hindu-Buddhist past.
If the Majapahit ideal was crucial to Balinese dynastic politics in this period, it was in Balinese court literature that it captured the imagination of the wider population. In the world of the Balinese courts, embracing Majapahit meant embracing it literally, through epic and indigenous poetical works. This paper examines a number of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century historical kidung that project the rise and fall of Javanese kingdoms through a Balinese lens, one that would mirror for Balinese of that period their own social, cultural, and religious ideals.
The Aceh-Johor Contest to Determine Malayness in the Seventeenth Century
Leonard Y. Andaya, University of Hawaii, Manoa
With the establishment of the Melaka kingdom in the early fifteenth century, there arose a parvenu Malay dynasty which sought to arrogate to itself the prestigious "Melayu (Malay)" label. The Melaka rulers deliberately created customs (adat), laws (undang-undang), and literature (hikayat) to make "Melayu" identical to "Melaka." So successful was this process that much of the Indo-Malaysian archipelago saw Melaka as the ideal center of Melayu-ness. As Melakas royal family extended its control over much of the Malay Peninsula and to parts of the east coast of Sumatra, the Melaka ideal was reinforced. While the process may have occurred earlier, it was only in the seventeenth century under Melakas successor Johor that many of these efforts were first committed to paper.
Yet the arrogation of Melayu identity did not go unchallenged. One area which had legitimate grounds for asserting its Melayu-ness was Aceh. Unlike Melaka, Aceh had been part of the lands of "Melayu" mentioned in the fourteenth century and perhaps dating as early as the eighth century. To counter Melakas campaign, in the seventeenth century Aceh undertook a parallel assertion of its literary and Islamic achievements, as well as customs and laws, largely based on examples from Turkey and the Middle East. Only with the shift in historical fortunes of Aceh and Johor beginning in mid-seventeenth century did "Melayu" become identified solely with the Malay peninsula. While "Melayu civilization" based on the Melaka/Johor model was exported throughout the world, the Aceh model became relegated to a local ethnicity.
Changing Perceptions of Ethnicity in Northern Sumatra
Uli Kozok, University of Aukland
Traditionally, the term Batak was mainly used by outsiders to describe the non-Muslim population of Northern Sumatra. A Batak who converted to Islam would automatically give up his Batak ethnic identity to become a Malay. The folk literature (oral and written) is full of accounts of Batak becoming Malay. The Batak themselves are made up of various ethnic groups with considerable cultural and linguistic differences. This paper will explore the indigenous literature of the people to see how the Batak have dealt with the outside world, and how they defined their own ethnic affiliation in pre-colonial times.
The second half of the 19th century saw the coming of the missionaries and the establishment of the colonial regime. These changes affected the manner in which the Batak responded to their self-identification and caused a radical redefinition of the perception of their own ethnic identity. While the Batak were actively involved in the reshaping of their ethnic identities, they also became objects of modern ethnographic classifications, and the creation of administrative units based on presumed ethnic identity, initially by the Dutch colonial authorities, and later by the Indonesian government.
Exploring ethnicity in Northern Sumatra is a fascinating subject that has various shades and colours through time and space. Ethnic identity as a concept relies less on linguistic and cultural norms, and more on a variety of social factors, the most important of which is access to power.
The Sakai of Riau: A "Non-Malay" Malay Identity in Sumatra
Nathan Porath, Leiden University
The name "Sakai" is an exonym used by Malay kingdoms in the past to refer to specific non-Muslim indigenous forest populations of the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra. This paper is about the Sakai living in a peripheral area of the former kingdom of Siak in present-day Riau Residency in Sumatra. Although the Sakai speak Malay and are Muslims, their conversion to Islam only occurred within the last thirty years. As non-Muslims their ancestors were not considered Malay but "Melayu tua," or "old Malays," and were said to occupy a "primitive" stage of Malay civilization. In the past, however, the Sakai fulfilled an important role in the Malay kingdoms as the principal suppliers of much valued forest products, especially aromatic woods. Nevertheless, in a hierarchical system of exchange and consumption headed by the Malay sultan and his officials, the Sakai were placed at the very bottom of the ladder.
With the creation of the modern nation-state and the intrusion of the "culture of modernity," the Malays in Indonesia have become ethnicized. The Sakai have continued to be denied access to Malay identity, despite the fact that they speak Malay and have now become Muslim. Instead, the Sakai are being forced by nation-state authorities to become classified as a separate ethnic group, an indigenous Riau people known as "Orang Sakai." This paper will draw on recent ideas from Material Culture, Consumption and Development studies to explain the changing identity of the Sakai and the more recent forced ethnicization of the group by the nation-state.