The Birth of a Province: Puncak Andalas, West Sumatra, Indonesia

westsumatra
West Sumatra; source: indonesiad.com

Friday, November 1, 2013
12:00-1:30 PM
Tokioka Room, Moore Hall 319

Précis

Since the fall of President Suharto Indonesia has experienced significant political and administrative changes. Among the most conspicuous changes are those that have come to the geography of government; the decentralization reforms enacted in the wake of Suharto’s forced resignation have not only altered the physical locus of a significant amount of political and administrative power from Jakarta to the regions, but they have also allowed for the redrawing of Indonesia’s political map as hundreds of new administrative units have been created. Official justifications for new regions including improving public service provision, accelerating regional economic development, and improving public participation in and representativeness of government. However, administrative proliferation is also driven by district and provincial elites wishing to increase their rent-seeking opportunities.

Though there are strong incentives for the formation of new regions, many proposals fail. The geographer’s understanding of formal, functional and vernacular spatial regions provides some insight into the difference between a successful district or province and a failed one. All of the provinces that have been created in post-authoritarian Indonesia seem to very clearly fit into either or both of the functional/formal categories. In cases where there is not a clear functional identity or agreed upon formal extent, the likelihood of a proposal succeeding seems to be greatly diminished. In some cases local elites face much high hurdles and a much longer road to realize their aspirations of forming new administrative entities. This is article is concerned with one such long-shot case: the prospective province of Puncak Andalas on the island of Sumatra. On the surface the chances for success would seem quite limited, but a group of local elites is convinced that the province will eventually be created. In pursuing their vision of creating a new province, they have embraced an incremental strategy whereby smaller, more attainable goals are targeted, including the development of transportation links and the establishment of new subdistricts. In achieving each of these shorter-term goals, the local elites increase support for and the possibilities of Puncak Andalas eventually being approved as a new province. This talk examines in detail this incremental strategy and how it is currently being implemented.

Speaker Bio

Keith Bettinger is a PhD candidate and lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Hawai’i. He is the recipient of the 2012 Sumitro Fellowship from the USINDO Society as well as a Mellon dissertation fellowship. His academic specialization is as a political ecologist focusing on protected areas in Southeast Asia. He conducted his dissertation fieldwork (completed in August 2012) at Kerinci Seblat National Park, a huge protected area on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. His research project centered on the effects of political and administrative decentralization on biodiversity conservation. Keith expects to graduate in May 2014. He has recently had articles accepted to Conservation and Society and Asia Pacific Viewpoint.

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