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Alumni Spotlight: Micah R. Fisher


Department of Geography and Environment – Spring 2019


Dissertation Title: Beyond recognition: Indigenous land rights and changing landscapes in Indonesia

In the context of rapid land use change taking place in Indonesia, his research focused on the increasing support for local community land rights as a way to protect forests and empower local livelihoods. A growing global movement advocating for indigenous and community land rights helped catalyze opportunities to challenge large areas of land in Indonesia that had long been enclosed as state forests. The main focus of his research took place among a small community – the Kajang of South Sulawesi – that were the first in Indonesia to obtain indigenous land rights to forest land administered by the state. He participated in every step of the process to gain formal recognition and further sought to explore the implications by examining local governance and planning processes, and placing himself within the various land use and livelihoods decisions shaping regional landscapes. Overall, his research sought to examine: in what ways does state recognition of community land rights support forest protection and empower communities and their livelihoods? The findings highlight the opportunities that emerge from formal land recognition processes but also its limits, in that recognition arrives amidst longstanding land use and livelihoods decisions that interact with broader notions about land, power, and identity.

His research focus has continued to pursue questions about land and land use change, as well as different forms of participation in governance processes. He currently serves as Editor in Chief at the journal Forest and Society, which focuses on the nexus of environment, land, and society relations in Southeast Asia and has recently published special issues on agrarian transformation in Thailand and social forestry in Indonesia. He is also a guest editor for the special issue on Adat and land politics in Indonesia at the Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, which in October 2019 [is publishing] a broader set of theoretical and empirical material from across different governing scales in Indonesia on questions of indigeneity, recognition, and land politics. In addition, his research also extends to questions of risk, disaster, and natural hazards, and he has been involved with a University of Hawaii team researching approaches to disaster management and climate adaptation education working to develop and test curriculum. Finally, he is also interested in the role of technology in public decision-making processes. He is currently pursuing research projects related to both participatory mapping and photovoices as tools of public engagement for engaging in land and resource governance.

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