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That may sound like a boring question, but it is an important one. Am I exaggerating if I say that the future of democracy depends on it? Informal politics is usually studied through in-depth fieldwork and interviews. Its shady and often secretive nature makes it difficult to study informal politics in any other way. In… Read More Can informal politics be studied quantitatively?
My work usually focuses on the semi-villains who animate local politics. Here is a celebration of one of its heroes. As a researcher working on murky topics like corruption and violence, I usually write only about the shady types. My explorations of the netherworld of politics are filled with political bosses, fixers, criminals and cronies.… Read More Fieldwork Heroes
Indonesia’s New Village Law might restore the dominance that village heads enjoyed under Suharto (with Prio Sambodho) Is Indonesia’s democratisation process changing the functioning of village heads? During the New Order, village heads often operated like small rural despots, safeguarded by the backing of an authoritarian regime. In this period the New Order relied on local… Read More The village head as patron
“See what is left of our rubber trees”, says Titik, the leader of a group of angry villagers. After a magnificent boat ride through majestic forest, I met his group in Rawang, Central Kalimantan, standing at the edge of a seemingly endless muddy field, full of felled tree trunks. They point to a few leaves… Read More Kalimantan’s sad palm oil revolution
Am on my way home from Philadelphia, where the 2016 conference of the American Political Science Association (APSA) was held. This conference is the biggest and most important political science conference in the world. The dominance of american universities and journals in the field is such, that the event is a must-go for many political… Read More Political Science and the study of informal politics
Indonesian lawyers combine legal reasoning with a subtle personal touch Santy Kouwagam There is an old joke about the word hakim (judge). Indonesians tell each other that the word actually means hubungi aku kalau ingin menang – contact me if you want to win. The joke suggests that people can simply buy court decisions.… Read More How to win court cases in Indonesia
In 2014 Indonesia’s parliament adopted a new village law that, when fully implemented, would bring big chances to rural life. The law aims at an empowerment of villages. Or should I say: an empowerment of village elites. The new law stipulates that each village should get 1.4 billion rupiah (about 100.000 euro), to be spend… Read More Informal Politics and Indonesia’s new Village Law
Indonesia’s democratisation process is a case of the half-full glass. Pessimists argue that elections have descended into an ugly spectacle of vote-buying and manipulation that does little to distribute power in a more even fashion. They point to the important role of money in running for elections, ensuring that only well-connected and wealthy candidates can… Read More The revenge of Indonesia’s political class
One of the main challenges of studying informal dimensions of politics is that the things you are looking for are largely invisible. At least at first. The way in which a businessman uses personal connections to secure a government contract, the informal authority that party workers exert in his neighbourhood or the ways in which… Read More Doing Fieldwork on Informal Politics