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Marginal Governance in the Time of Pemekaran: Case Studies from Sulawesi and West Papua

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One of the outcomes of the radical decentralisation policies accompanying political reform and democratisation in Indonesia is a sustained administrative programme known by the term pemekaran, or a ‘blossoming’ of new administrative and budgetary units that extend to the farthest corners of the nation. This paper explores aspects and impacts of the pemekaran process as it unfolds in two remote corners of Indonesia, namely the sub-district of Routa in Konawe Regency of Southeast Sulawesi and the newly-established district of Bintuni in the swamp lands of Bintuni Gulf, West Papua. In both regions the strategic possibilities that accompany pemekaran have fostered a vibrant local politic based around appeals to established patterns of landed authority. But the logic of pemekaran can lead to fragmentation and confusion over jurisdictional authority. Critics argue that the process dilutes capacity and political authority. Supporters acknowledge the limits but applaud the extension of development funding into areas which otherwise would remain isolated and impoverished. The paper explores some of the dimensions of this debate and the role of pemekaran in shaping local experience on the margins of the state.

Affiliations: 1: The Australian National University

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