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Indigenous media and conflict transformation in Indonesia

Projekt gefördert durch die Deutsche Stiftung Friedensforschung

Förderzeitraum : März 2016 bis Mai 2017

Projektmitarbeiterin: PD Dr. habil. Birgit Bräuchler, Monash University, Australien

Background: Indonesia houses 50-70 million of the world's 370 million indigenous people. Under the authoritarian Suharto regime (1966-1998) Indonesia's national motto 'Unity in Diversity' only superficially accommodated the hundreds of different cultures, ethnic groups and languages. Media – the cornerstone of national unity – were severely restricted. As in other parts of the world, indigenous peoples became victims of land dispossessions, evictions and marginalisation. They had no voice in the media and their stereotypisation legitimised the Indonesian government's development, assimilation and exploitation policies, which gives expression to what Johan Galtung calls structural and cultural violence. After the step-down of Suharto in 1998, the implementation of laws on decentralisation led to democratisation and the reconstitution of local autonomy. The international promotion of cultural and indigenous human rights gave extra impetus to the reempowerment of local communities and indigenous groups. Media liberalisation in post-Suharto Indonesia resulted in exploding numbers of dailies, journals, radio and TV stations. Internet access rapidly increased. Despite these developments, alaw for the recognition and protection of indigenous peoples was only drafted in 2013 and no efforts were taken to come up to article 16 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that stipulates their right to establish their own media and have access to non-indigenous media. Nonetheless, representatives of the indigenous movement in Indonesia do strategically use new communication technologies to fight for their rights and the protection of their cultures. The transformation of the media from means of oppression to means for empowerment has so far been strongly neglected by media anthropologists, Indonesianists and peace researchers.

Project focus and approach: This project looks at emerging indigenous mediascapes in Indonesia and at how they contribute to transforming structural and cultural violence that is deeply rooted in the Indonesian state's treatment of indigenous peoples. The central question is whether and how the use of (new) media can act as means to transform conflictual communication and relations between indigenous peoples and the state and thus contribute to national peacebuilding. Through concrete case studies on Java and in eastern Indonesia, the proposal's arguments are empirically grounded. Ethnographic fieldwork at the sites and online allows for the participation in those mediascapes and the investigation of the social and political embeddedness of the media cultures in focus. It allows for a culturally informed view from below and an original contribution to the field of peace and conflict studies. The definition of what indigeneity implies is hotly debated in academia and policy-making. The argument here is against essentialism and for the notion of indigeneity and culture as a process of negotiation and articulation.Due to a developing global human rights culture and thriving civil societies worldwide, indigenous peoples became aware of the need of self-representation and indigenous media projects became an important (nonviolent) means to wage war against misrepresentations, land grabbing and cultural genocide. The project aims to analyse such emerging indigenous mediascapes in Indonesia as well as their embeddedness in a broader media landscape where indigenous media strategically interact with more mainstream media, thus challenging established power relations.