The Struggle over Adat Forest Rights in Upland Banten, Indonesia

2017-04-20T01:40:27Z (GMT) by Dean Yulindra Affandi
This study investigates local institutional arrangements and the regulation of forest access and control in the wake of the 2013 decision of the Indonesian Constitutional Court, which recognised indigenous peoples’ rights over forest territory. The research focuses on the interactions between <i>adat</i> groups and other actors in that context, with specific attention to the Kasepuhan indigenous communities of West Java. There has been considerable political ecology scholarship about state-society-nature relations in Indonesia; this research contributes to this knowledge base by extending political ecology analysis to the entirely new situation that is unfolding in the wake of the court decision. As such, this research interrogates ongoing changes by employing the concept of institutional bricolage as a tool for understanding just how institutional alterations occur and how these mediate resource access and entitlements. <br> <br> For the greater part of Indonesian history, indigenous communities in Indonesia have been trying without success to assert their traditional rights and redefine their place in Indonesian statehood. Adat rights have, however, been severely undermined for the sake of development or other ‘national interest’. The political efflorescence popularly known as <i>Reformasi</i> has, since 1998, opened the channel for many disenfranchised groups, such as indigenous peoples, to demand social justice. In the case of the Kasepuhan indigenous group, these demands have concerned their communal rights over land and forest territories. Nearly two decades after Reformasi, the Court’s 2013 decision has invalidated the notion that the state is the the sole owner and manager of Indonesia’s forest areas. It has brought new hope for indigenous communities all over the country, as it potentially acknowledges their exclusive rights over specific plots of land or forest. <br> <br> This study describes and analyses the practical implications of the Court’s ruling. The study shows that the Kasepuhan people have acted as innovative <i>bricoleurs</i> who patch together elements of different institutional logics available to them. This, in turn, leads to novel institutional arrangements, and to a bylaw that excises parts of the Gunung Halimun-Salak National Park in their favour. This is an unprecedented development for an adat entity in the country. The thesis unpacks the dynamics of the institutional arrangements between the Kasepuhan people and other actors involved in state-society-nature relations in Indonesia.