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Social change on Seram: A study of ideologies of development in eastern Indonesia.

Grzimek, Benno R.O (1991) Social change on Seram: A study of ideologies of development in eastern Indonesia. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Fuelled by expanding oil and gas revenues, the Indonesian state has engaged in a massive and nationwide restructuring process. This "development" programme affects all facets of Indonesian society as a growing state apparatus exerts its authoritarian influence. In this context the thesis discusses social change in two Wemale villages located in the interior of western Seram at the very margins of the state administration's power and interest. Drawing upon their experience of submission to colonial state control and the presence of the Protestant Church since the turn of the 19th century, these formerly autonomous shifting cultivators have embraced, modified and subverted the rhetoric of modernisation in antithesis to 'adat' their presumed ancestral customs. The thesis discusses the reception of as well as a striving for social change through an examination of cultural concepts and social values. I set out with a description of transformations in housing, cooking and food. This leads to a preliminary discussion of the meaning of past and new styles in consumption which are closely associated with 'adat' and Protestantism. The concern with improving homes with market products and meeting general household expenses results in modifications to economic activities. Tree cash cropping is now a highly valued extension of shifting cultivation and that has major implications for the reproduction of the household. This is observed with respect to gender relations and the growing importance of inheritance of material wealth. Whereas villagers see predominantly a break with ancestral habits in production and consumption, social changes in household relationships are denied. Chapter 4 and 5 provide background information about the household composition and examine the concept of the house as a kinship group. I show in which way the household, exemplified by husband and wife, seeks to seclude itself from the interference of public leadership by evading marriage rituals specifically and avoiding the assumption of public office more generally. This issue is expanded in chapter 6 which offers a characterisation of the political roles of elders and citizens in village meetings. The rhetoric of "development" and its limitations in mobilising the villagers participation is introduced. In the final chapters the thesis discusses the importance of the Protestant Church and its close affinity with "development". Indeed "development" is partly received in religious terms as the emphasis on past and present sins, on expiation and social renewal, helps to generate hope for a prosperous future. Yet the villagers reluctance to conform to the hierarchical authority of the Church structure shows firstly how they try to protect their autonomy and secondly that their perception of "development" is in terms of communal consumption and not collective production. Concluding I argue that the unintended consequences of the imposition of parish as well as government structures on the local community has thus not only given rise to rival views and interpretations about what "development" means but also lead to a state of communal alienation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociology, Social Structure and Development, South Asian Studies
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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