Printer Friendly

Imagining Selves and Inventing Festival Sriwijaya.

Daniels, Timothy P.

Clifford Geertz, in his discussion of the social history of an East Central Javanese town, described how rural migrants attempted to make sense of modern elections and political factions by applying old systems of meanings.(1) As people adjusted to the evolving social conditions of new urban contexts, new knowledge supposedly emerged to order social relations. Yet he observed that in the 1950s this rarely was the case; usually a sense of vagueness and incoherence persisted. Similarly, Geertz's analysis of a Javanese funeral concluded that the ritual "failed" and consequently tensions persisted and intensified as a result of societal and cultural discontinuity; the social and the cultural were moving in opposite directions.(2) Old cultural notions did not tend to give way to new notions more adept at effecting social solidarity. The contest over whose voice, whose sense of self and image of post-colonial Indonesia would prevail eventually culminated in the bloodbath of 1965-66, which marked the abrupt end of the Old Order and the birth of the Suharto- led New Order regime.

New Order officials used a combination of politico-military repression and explicitly promulgated national ideology to secure their position atop the political hierarchy. Pancasila, the five-principle ideology of the 1945 Constitution, and the Bhinneka Tunggal Ika philosophy of "Unity in Diversity" became more widely institutionalized and were rigidly interpreted. Tourist promotions, a key element in the Indonesian government's five-year plans since 1969, were a crucial vehicle for delivering New Order messages and values,(3) and in 1993 President Suharto declared 1991-2000 "Visit Indonesia Decade". Tourist promotions fulfil the New Order's major ideological shift towards linking national unity with economic development and modernization.(4) The tourist industry has been a way to attract foreign capital and investment, especially with the decline of the oil boom in the 1980s. Balinese average incomes more than tripled from 1979 to 1985 as a result of the growth of tourism,(5) but its rise in Tanah Toraja and Bali brought on a crisis of identity, partially due to static images used to market regional cultures. Images of elaborate funerary rituals and exotic dances are used to represent the Toraja and Balinese people and their administrative units as "pillars" of the Indonesian nation.(6)

Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger argue that invented traditions, relatively easy to trace practices and discourses, are often used by people to create an aura of antiquity and perpetuity in social contexts characterized by large-scale structural change.(7) Moreover, Hobsbawm and Susan Wright both underscore the fact that certain representations and interpretations are routinized in public celebrations to promote the goals and projects of organizers.(8) The notion of invented tradition has come under criticism for its apparently limited perspective on human creativity and the distinction the idea often entails between actual and invented culture.(9) What I suggest in this paper is that while it is true that humans are always creating representations, and that such meaningful symbolic creativity is an inherent quality of culture, it is analytically important to make a distinction between "actual culture" and "invented tradition" in terms of the different ways knowledge is internalized and socially distributed. From this perspective we can view the process by which invented tradition becomes actual culture and actual culture, with a long and difficult to trace historical trajectory, becomes invented tradition. This perspective can provide insight not only into ongoing social contests for the power to publicly define selves but also into a culture of crisis in which hegemonic inventions of self, based upon opposition to other non-represented groups, restrict the incorporation of diverse groups into the larger community and serve to channel violence in plural societies.

To illustrate this point, I focus upon the Festival Sriwijaya, a recently invented festival staged annually in Palembang, the provincial capital of South Sumatra. As the main such event in the region, Festival Sriwijaya is promoted by its governmental organizers as being representative of all of the diverse cultures and peoples that exist in the province. based upon my participation in and observation of festival activities, and interviews and newspaper articles collected during two summers of fieldwork, this paper considers how this festival represents regional identity and how some alternative images of sell expressed in other sites, are muted in this official public setting.

I will analyze festival practice and discourse in order to infer and explicitly represent a schema of identity(10) which underlies and partially directs such activities. I will argue that a dominant "Malay" identity schema underlies Festival Sriwijaya practice and discourse and that this schema generates recognition of a core of "Malay" authenticity which tends to absorb multiple cultural streams. "Malay", or orang Melayu, is a local category which includes orang ulu and orang ilir, ethnic groups of upstream and downstream localities respectively. First, I will provide some ethnographic background and discuss images in Festival Sriwijaya practice and discourse. Then, I will discuss a cognitive description of dominant Malay identity and consider the social distribution of institutionalized and alternative schemata in Palembang society.

The Ethnographic Context

Sumatra is the westernmost island of the Indonesian archipelago. Today, the southern part of Sumatra comprises four provinces: Jambi, Lampung, Bengkulu and South Sumatra. The population of South Sumatra province was 6,313,100 in the 1990 population census and was calculated by the Central Bureau of Statistics of the Republic of Indonesia to be 7,207,500 in the 1995 intercensal population survey. Palembang, the provincial capital, has a population calculated at over 1.5 million in 1995. Most inhabitants of Palembang are Malay Muslims, although there are also significant populations of Arabs, Indians, and Chinese in the city. Of these groups the Chinese are the most populous and visible. There are several Mosques and Buddhist temples in local neighbourhoods and in business districts.

Numerous ethnic groups live spread throughout the province in rural communities where agriculture forms the primary means of subsistence. People from outlying hinterlands and small towns are increasingly migrating into Palembang to look for work and educational opportunities. Some people work in commercial and manufacturing sectors of the economy, but many migrants and long-time residents are forced to try to make a living in the city's informal sectors. Practically all of the non-agricultural exports such as oil, tin, gas and coal are owned by the central government in Jakarta,(11) while businesses belonging to Indonesians of Chinese descent import commercial goods such as clothing and electronic commodities and control much of the distribution of agricultural products grown by smallholders.

Festival Sriwijaya

The Republic of Indonesia designated 1991 as the year of tourist visits. Provincial governments were directed to identify and emphasize the historic cultural traits of their regions to further the goals of increasing foreign tourism and investment, economic development and modernization. In South Sumatra, Sriwijaya - a Buddhist kingdom centered in Palembang from the 7th to 11th Centuries - was chosen to represent regional culture.(12) Regional government officials "invented, constructed and formally instituted"(13) Festival Sriwijaya in 1991 as an integral part of the national tourist campaign.

In the first seven years of its existence,(14) Festival Sriwijaya came to be organized around a core of events including opening ceremonies and speeches, welcome dances, cultural parade, painting, dance and singing contests, Prince and Princess of Sriwijaya, Musi River festivities and tours, and craft panoramas. Each year there have been innovations altering and adding to these core events. For example, in 1997 a golf tournament called the Sriwijaya Cup and a Musi River swim meet were incorporated into the festival as its final event and as part of the Musi River festivities, respectively.

In 1997 the opening ceremonies began during the afternoon of 16 June(15) in the Stadium Sriwijaya Exhibition Field, which had been decorated with posters for several weeks that express slogans such as "Make Festival Sriwijaya a Success" or "Perpetuate Regional Culture". People who passed by on the sidewalk or in automobiles could see the preparations such as the banners and stands for the coming festival. The Stadium Sriwijaya Exhibition Field is a large open-air site between the Sriwijaya Stadium and the South Sumatran Regional Department of Tourism. Festival Sriwijaya opening ceremonies, comprising the Welcoming of the Governor, Massive Welcome Dance, Official Speeches and the Culture Carnival, were centered in the Stadium Sriwijaya Exhibition Field and culminated with a parade through several main streets of Palembang. For Festival Sriwijaya VII the official welcoming of the Governor was initiated by scores of dancers who staged a massive dance performance while the Governor's contingent waited at the stadium entrance gate. Then some of the dancers, young men dressed as Sriwijaya soldiers, and couples in "traditional" wedding garb, formed a human corridor through which the Governor and his party marched to their special seats in decorated raised stands. After the Governor's entourage was seated, seven young female dancers in "noble dress" and four men holding umbrellas or spears performed the Gending Sriwijaya dance while the Gending Sriwijaya song played in the background. This dance and song, invented in 1944, represent the welcome performed by a princess or sultan's daughter and her close friends or nursemaids for highly honoured guests in the ruler's court. Official speeches were given by the Director General of Tourism, Posts and Telecommunications from Jakarta and by the Governor of South Sumatra. The final event of the opening ceremonies was the "culture parade" in which contingents organized in terms of regency(16) and subregency units marched around the stadium and into the streets with large banners. Thousands of residents of Palembang, most of whom were not in the stadium, stood in the streets and on the sidewalks to see the parade.

For three consecutive days, beginning the day after the opening ceremonies, young women and men and cultural arts teams performed dances, theatrical skits, and songs on public stages set up by the Department of Tourism. All of these cultural performances constituted what local organizers called the "Regional Arts Show", and some performers were entered into a regional dance and song contest. In 1997 a group of performers from the Department of Culture in Jakarta also participated in the arts show.

For three days, running concurrently with the regional arts show, boys, girls, men and women painted or drew pictures in an outdoor setting arranged by the festival organizers. After three days of creative efforts, these artists had their work evaluated by a team of judges, and prizes were distributed. This three-day event was called "Tourist Portrait and Painting Contest". In 1997, spectators walked back and forth between the regional arts show and the painting contest.

On the morning of the third day of Festival Sriwijaya, a Musi River Festival took place. The River Festival consisted of several events such as a swimming race and contests for ferryboats, decorated boats, and large rowboats. These activities began between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and ended early in the afternoon. Thousands of local residents crowded along the banks of the river and on the bridge to view the festivities. This was the only other event besides the "culture parade" in which large numbers of common people participated. All the other events tended to be directed to outsiders or to the upper echelons of Palembang society.

On the morning of 18 June there was also a tour of Palembang and the Musi Riven Around 9:30 a.m. foreign visitors, Indonesian visitors from outside of Palembang and some local residents boarded two light green Department of Tourism buses which stopped at local hotels and in front of the provincial tourism offices. Eight female tourism civil servants sat on one bus with four Bachelor-Bachelorette Palembang 1997 winners. I sat on the other bus with five male tourism civil servants; a family from Belitung Regency consisting of a Malay father, his three daughters, and the eldest one's Javanese husband; and two young women from Palembang's market district. The Malay father was accompanying his two younger daughters who were members of Belitung's dance team. I was the only foreign participant. After a brief bus tour of Palembang, we boarded a small boat and traveled up the Musi River. During the boat ride, a dangdut(17) musical group sang several romantic songs, and everyone was encouraged to participate in the singing and dancing.

For two or three days, beginning after the opening ceremonies, a tourist panorama was set up as part of Festival Sriwijaya. Local businesses and government agencies arranged 20 to 30 booths with craft products and information about South Sumatra. Several local residents walked around the booths and viewed the local wares, and tourism department employees were on hand to give guests additional information and assistance.

The selection of the Prince and Princess of Sriwijaya (PPS) was a week-long process which culminated in a beauty pageant held in one of Palembang's fanciest hotels. PPS participants had to pass through a series of tests and interviews administered by a selection committee. The pageant candidates who participated in the PPS final on 20 June had survived a rigorous elimination process. This final stage featured young men and women performing dances, songs and theatrical skits: they also modelled clothing and delivered brief speeches before a middle class audience and a panel of judges.

The final event of the 7th Festival Sriwijaya was a golf tournament, the Sriwijaya Cup, which took place at the Kenten Palembang Golf Club. For two weekend days members of the local political, educational and professional elites and their national and international guests played golf, were entertained and served catered food by beauty pageant contestants, and received prizes and gifts.

Representations in Festival Sriwijaya and the Mass Media

Festival Sriwijaya practices and representations in the mass media expressed, and were partially directed by, images constitutive of local, regional, and national identities. These images were formally instituted and broadcast in the speeches of politico-military leaders, aired on radio and television, and inscribed in the written discourse of the local press.

The first image underlying festival activities and newspaper discourse was of South Sumatra as a solidary social whole comprising ten sub-provincial units, eight regencies and two municipalities. Each regency was presented as a geographically-based entity with its own distinctive cultural variant of a South Sumatran theme. For instance, the "culture parade" contingents and panorama booths were organized primarily by regency and exhibited clothing, food and craft markers from each area. This image of a province composed of distinct sub-provincial units with geographically-based kinds of persons reflects the regional government's on-going attempts to reorganize social groups according to the national pattern of political centralization. Ethnic groups and genealogically based groups who were once organized semi-autonomously in territories overlapping current geographical boundaries of regencies and provinces are now increasingly incorporated into the hierarchical structures of the Indonesian state. Villages are organized into kelurahan, which in turn form kecamatan; the next level is the regency (kabupaten) or municipality (kotamadya), and then the province (propinsi). Taken together all these units constitute the negara or nation-state of the Republic of Indonesia. Festival and media projections of regency-based kinds of South Sumatran persons, identified by "typical" cultural traits, de-emphasize actual cultural diversity and ethnic group heterogeneity in favour of recasting this cultural variation as regional similarity.

The second image was a unified regional "Malay" identity, an encapsulating Malayness rooted in the glorious maritime kingdoms founded by original coastal Malays. Many festival activities and newspaper articles expressed and constructed this Malay maximal identity. Official speeches, given by the South Sumatran governor and the Director General of Tourism, Posts and Telecommunications from Jakarta, stressed Palembang's history as the centre of the magnificent Kingdom of Sriwijaya, and its high cultural achievements. Massive opening ceremony dances, along with Gending Sriwijaya and other invented traditions, construct such a strong ideological link to the past that public officials and newspaper journalists often equate South Sumatra with "Sriwijaya" and Palembang, the current provincial capital, with Palembang, the "centre" of the Sriwijaya Kingdom. Sriwijaya is the kingdom and Palembang the centre to which Malays can trace their origins and where they can locate their heritage. According to this perspective, all Malay culture traits and personality, essential Malayness, find authenticity in the ancestral homeland of "Proto-Malays".(18)

This ancient Malay identity, centred in Palembang, has been constructed as inclusive of all the culture traits of the region. It includes animist, Buddhist and Islamic histories, people from rural and urban spaces and various cultural practices and identities. As demonstrated earlier, "traditional" Malay dress, dance and song evoke and represent (Buddhist) kings, (Muslim) sultans and descendants of royalty or members of the royal courts. These cultural inventions absorb Buddhist and Islamic historical trajectories and cultural streams.

Although this maximal Malay identity(19) incorporates multiple historical trajectories and cultural streams, and several kind of persons categorized according to regency, it excludes and is constructed in opposition to Javanese, Chinese, Arabs, and Indians, all of whom have been long-time residents of South Sumatra. These groups are "other bangsa" (peoples or ethnic-racial collectivities) in contrast to bangsa Melayu. Javanese contingents in the Culture Carnival were referred to directly as Javanese, as were the performance teams sent from Jakarta, while inland ethnic groups were only referred to by the regions where they reside. While the Buddhist cultural stream and presence are occasionally recognized in reference to the Kingdom of Sriwijaya, and the Buddhist-style welcome dances are favourites of many Malay Muslim spectators, Indian and Chinese influence is rarely acknowledged publicly, and these groups are generally the absent, non-represented Other in Malay ritualized practices.

The third image represents South Sumatran culture and identity as an integral part of the national identity, a form of miniaturization which collapses cultural and ethnic diversity into a broader entity just as the unified South Sumatra construct does on a provincial level. As a local newspaper wrote, "South Sumatran culture forms one of the competing pillars of national culture placed alongside Javanese culture and non-South Sumatran culture".(20) South Sumatran, or regional Malay culture, is projected as one of the constituent units of national culture. Furthermore, this lifts South Sumatra up in the hierarchy of Indonesian cultures by placing it next to the dominant national (Javanese) culture in contrast to other provinces. In his closing remarks at the golf tournament, the Head of the Department of Tourism reminded those present of the national hierarchy's roots in the glorious past of "Indonesian" empires when he declared that Sriwijaya Kingdom is second only to the Java-based Hindu-Buddhist empire of Majapahit. The hierarchy in this selective telling of history reinforces the current political-economic order in which Javanese are at the helm of national government and own the most lucrative sectors of the South Sumatran economy.

Furthermore, the official presence of the National Tourism leader from Jakarta, political relations with the Java-based centre, and use of the national Pancasila ideology also expressed and reproduced the image of a Melayu South Sumatra as a part of a larger "imagined community".(21) The Director-General of Tourism and an elder Muslim religious leader who led prayer in the opening ceremonies both made frequent reference to the national ideology, its first principle Ketuhanan (Belief in God) and economic development.

Similarly, local newspapers used core nationalist concepts to place South Sumatran regional identity within a vertically arranged imagined community. "SUMSEL [Sumatera Selatan, South Sumatra] culture is amongst the cultural high points that build national culture which has the philosophy of Unity in Diversity ... the cultural art perpetuation effort is also a realization of a feeling of love for Indonesia".(22) The expression Bhinneka Tunggal Ika ("Unity in Diversity"), a key notion and slogan in the hegemonic nationalist project, was utilized in this passage to proclaim how South Sumatran identity and culture, like countless others in the Indonesian archipelago, melt into the Indonesian national community. From this perspective, efforts such as Festival Sriwijaya are interpreted not only as expressions of pride in local and regional culture but also as an expression of love for the Indonesian nation, the former an integral part of the latter.

The Dominant Malay Identity Schema

These three images - a provincial social whole composed of geographically-based kinds of persons, an encapsulating Malayness rooted in a glorious historical past, and a South Sumatran Malay identity and culture as a constituent of the Indonesian nation -constitute a dominant Malay identity schema which underlies Festival Sriwijaya practice and discourse. The cultural images and meanings embedded and embodied in festival activities, speeches, and newspaper articles are bundled together in a detail-rich schema.(23) My representation [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED] is a construct built from my analysis of ethnographic data partially presented and discussed above.

Maximal Malay identity includes and inflects regency-kinds of persons listed on the bottom of the diagram. Each of these geographically-based groups is associated with particular culture traits (ciri khas), behavioural expectations and evaluations. As such, they are particular social identities constructed of low-level knowledge - role-function and status-value - of their own and are broader than other social identities such as ritual specialist (dukun), Muslim elder (penghulu), bus or taxi drivers, teachers or civil servants, but more restricted than South Sumatran Malay identity. Palembang is the core sub-provincial place, the centre of ancestral Malay culture from which culture spread out into inland, upland and offshore territories. Consequently, regency-kinds of persons are variants of a higher-level Malay category.

This maximal Malay identity is constructed from low-level behavioural expectations and evaluations or ranking. Malayness is highly valued and evaluated positively. The glorious Malay past represented by the exemplary Sriwijaya Kingdom is considered the cultural high point of the region. In fact, in all of the archipelago's history, it is only overshadowed by one empire, the Java-based Majapahit. Arab, Indian, and Chinese contributions to the region are less highly valued. All non-South Sumatran provinces, other than Java-based ones, are evaluated lower as well.

The role-functions or behavioural expectations emphasize several attributes as characteristic of a Malay social category. Malays are expected to hold political power and to occupy the central positions of government. The governor, mayors, regency heads, military leaders and practically all provincial civil servants are Malay. South Sumatran Malays are assumed to be Muslim and citizens (warga) of the Indonesian nation-state. Islam is given a special place as a behavioral expectation of Malays, whereas animism is marginalized as a sign of incomplete Islamization. Buddhism is associated with the region's large Chinese population. Although Islamic practices are expected and are evaluated positively, they are subsumed and not given maximal identity status. In addition, creativity and sociability are positive low level attributes of Malayness; maintaining social ties and active participation in social interactions by performing verbal and non-verbal arts are expected and promoted. The relationship of these expectations to Malay kinship ideology and practices such as the analogical extension of kinship categories to non-genealogically linked persons, needs further investigation.

This maximal Malay identity, overarching social persona (bangsa), is contrasted to other social categories, such as Javanese and Chinese, and is used to incorporate diverse groups into a dominant urban culture.(24) Various elite and middle-class sectors embed this schema in hegemonic messages in an attempt to create a sense of social solidarity and a feeling of belonging to and taking pride in a bangsa with a glorious past. To what extent this social function is realized or constitutes a continuing crisis of identity will be explored later. In addition, this schema and its constituent images are used to motivate support of, and participation in, government efforts and ideological goals.

The Social Distribution of Knowledge

South Sumatran and national political-military officials, civil servants, doctors, professors, choreographers, business owners, journalists and many other sectors of the elite and middle classes(25) have created written and spoken discourse characterized by the diffuse and extensive use of the representations discussed above. In official festival speeches, informal conversations, interviews and newspaper articles, people from these social strata interpret social and cultural variation and regional and historical identities in terms of images of a unified, regional entity, an inclusive Malay identity rooted in a glorious past that constitutes one of the "pillars" of the Indonesian nation. Rather than assuming total hegemony in this section, I will describe and analyze the discourse of working class and poor people, the "rakyat kecil", who make up the vast majority of South Sumatran society, in order to discern the distribution of these representations or conflicting ones and how they are internalized.

First of all, I will consider the representation of kinds of people in South Sumatra. When people spoke about absent others or introduced people to me, they would often categorize them by their particular ethnicities, for example, Komering, Daya, Semendo, Ogan, Hail,(26) Kisau, or Ranau, all ethnic groups in Ogan Komering Ulu regency. The people considered to be the "original inhabitants" of Palembang were called "orang asli Palembang" or "orang asli Melayu". People have a strong tendency to categorize kinds of people according to ethnic labels rather than regency labels, which are generally used to refer to places, locations of villages, and spatial residence of kinds of people. Each of these ethnic groups is viewed as having its own separate language, which people say varies as one moves relatively short distances within each regency.

Chinese, Javanese, Bataks, Arabs and Indians who live in Palembang are called "orang Palembang" due to residence but maintain their separate ethnic labels: respectively "orang Cina, orang Jawa, orang Batak, orang Arab, orang Tambi" [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED]. The additional criterion of citizenship is often placed upon Chinese residents to qualify them for inclusion in the category of "orang Palembang". They have to be not only residents, but citizens of Indonesia as well.

In sum, the regency-kind-of-person image does not appear to be internalized in a diffuse fashion, as the majority of people have a more complex mental map of social and cultural variation and of kinds of people who live in the province. People, however, also have a regency-based representation of space in the region, and at times this gets mapped on to kinds of persons, especially in reference to conventional markers used by elites to represent difference.

A second point is that the image of an inclusive Malay identity is a more diffuse and long-standing construction in the lives of the majority of people in Palembang. People use the terms "orang daerah" or "orang ulu" to speak of people from upland and upriver ethnic groups in regions outside of Palembang. The ilir-ulu dichotomy relates to the historical pattern of inter-ethnic and zonal trade relations between people in downstream and upstream areas. Upstream and upland groups, "orang ulu", are contrasted with "orang asli Palembang" or "orang asli Melayu", but taken together they form an overarching category of "orang Melayu" or "orang Palembang". The overarching category of "orang Melayu" is contrasted with groups which have come to the region from other places, such as the Chinese and Javanese. These distinctions are grounded in the everyday lives of working class and poor people who interact constantly in intimate social gatherings with people from various hinterland areas. In local neighbourhoods I have frequently observed "orang asli Palembang" and "orang daerah" interrelating in close cohort groups and social cliques, and some people describe "orang Melayu" or "orang Palembang" as "orang campur", mixed people derived from the blending of various ethnic groups. Chinese, Javanese, Arabs and Indians were not included in this overarching Malay identity. Yet the widespread notion of "orang campur" tends to include "original inhabitants" of Sumatra from other regions of the island such as the Minangkabau and Acehnese, otherwise generally represented as outside the dominant image of provincial solidarity and administrative boundaries.

Discourse analysis indicates that there are two senses of the lexical item "orang Palembang". One usage is rooted in the awareness that various people reside in Palembang and are also citizens of the Indonesian nation-state. This is a marked sense which entails several additional criteria of "Palembangness". The other, unmarked usage derives from the knowledge that "orang daerah" and "orang asli Palembang" are original inhabitants of the region and in a sense share membership in a "founder's cult" which claims to hold fights to land and political control based upon being descendants of the earliest residents in the area.(27)

Furthermore, the image of an inclusive Malay identity rooted in the glorious maritime kingdoms of the past is relatively widespread and diffusely internalized. Commercial and service sector workers tend to have more elaborate notions of the glorious Malay past and of ideological messages embedded in Festival Sriwijaya than do people who perform most of their work in neighbourhoods off the main roads. A female insurance agent told me that "Sriwijaya" is used in the title of the festival because it is the most inclusive of all social groups in the region. On the other hand, independent seamstresses and small food-stall owners tend also to have a well-formed schema of Malayness that is not strongly linked to the Sriwijaya Kingdom. Many local Muslims in Palembang interpret this glorious Malay history as Islamic, viewing the early founders of Sriwijaya Kingdom as Malay Muslims. Through this sort of anachronism many local Muslims reconcile their diffuse internalization of a glorious image of Malay history with their identity as Muslims by associating ancient kingdoms, as well as dances, songs, and attire from various cultural origins, with Islam.

For many other Malay Muslims this historical interpretation does not apply, as they seek to separate Muslim historical trajectories from all others. An elderly Imam gave a strong sermon about the history of the Sultan Agung Mosque (located in a central business district of Palembang) and Islam in the region during Friday prayer in the week of Festival Sriwijaya. He praised the Darussalam Sultanate and the grand contributions of Islam in the region. It was clear that, for him, South Sumatra's glorious past is the Muslim history of the region as distinct from its Buddhist past. The value placed upon the oldest Malay empire in elite discourse is replaced here with an emphasis upon the oldest Muslim influence.

A third observation is that the image of SUMSEL culture as a pillar of the nation-state is less widespread. Most people have a notion of citizenship, defining a category of legal subjects of the Indonesian government, and know the nationalist slogans of "unity in diversity" and "Pancasila", but many common people have internalized these notions as compact formulaic discourse or as mere rhetoric, capable of being reiterated at a moment's notice. From observations and conversations I have inferred three major images which are not so easily contained within the nationalist image of local cultures: diasporic Malay community, Islamic community, and rakyat kecil identity.

Many people have a notion of Malayness which transcends the nation-state and extends into other Southeast Asian countries. In elite representations discussed earlier this transnational Malay awareness was expressed but interpreted as one of the pillars of Indonesian nationality. However, this awareness does not seem to be contained within the nationalist interpretation in many neighbourhoods of Palembang. Following dinner, young "orang camput" men often sit at the roadside to sing and chat. They say that the songs, which are generally about dating and romance, are popular "Malay" songs from Indonesia, Singapore or Malaysia. None of these youth participated in any of the events of Festival Sriwijaya, and most of them were unemployed and out of school because their parents could not afford to pay for their education. Their songs were not the official songs of the festival contests and are frowned upon by members of the middle classes, who find them crude, and by Muslim activists, who consider them immoral.

Many middle class and working class Muslims internalize and express a maximal "orang Muslim" identity which either includes all ethnicities and nationalities or involves a shift that leaves old social identities behind. In either case it is opposed to other religions. Many of these Muslims are members of a "Dakwah Movement"(28) which is striving to implant Islamic principles and to cleanse Indonesian society of traditional influences they interpret as contrary to Islam. These sectors of Palembang society tend to be critical of the image of a glorious heritage on grounds that it involves the influence of Chinese Buddhists. They do not interpret Sriwijaya as Islamic but instead see it as Buddhist, and thus its current influence on local Muslim practice presents a serious problem and an obstacle to making the region truly Islamic. They point out that the clothes worn in the welcome dances and weddings have Chinese origins; for these Muslims, who emphasize their religion, overarching Malay identity is contested and they imagine a community of Muslims strictly adhering to Islamic practices. Furthermore, their imagined community tends to be international in scope, an ummat modeled after early Muslim society led by the Prophet Muhammad.

Many working-class and poor people express and internalize the inclusive Malay identity and glorious past through a process that resembles their negotiation of SUMSEL as a pillar of the nation-state discourse. These compact images are not used to interpret broad areas of experience in their mundane lives and are expressed in formulaic phrases. In their discourse they often speak of the everyday concerns of higher wages, affordable education and attaining more influence in public policies and so on. They tend to contrast orang tinggi (upper class people) with "little people" like themselves, the rakyat kecil; people who have control of economic resources and political power are contrasted with people who lack these resources. This image of "common folk" is class-based and is often used to express poverty, powerlessness and frustration with the policies of the government which make the daily lives of "common folk" difficult. A taxi driver who complained that "civil servants are responsible for a series of one-way streets that cause frequent traffic jams" expressed frustration that rakyat kecil have no say in these matters and contrasted this undemocratic predicament with conditions in the United States of America.

Conclusion: Culture of Crisis

In South Sumatra the elite and middle class have invented and institutionalized cultural creations such as Gending Sriwijaya, "noble dress", massive dances and Festival Sriwijaya itself to foster a sense of regional and national solidarity. They have appropriated a notion of Malayness already suffuse in Palembang and reshaped it to serve their purposes. Dominant "inventions" are in the process of becoming "actual" culture as evidenced by the widespread image of an absorptive Malayness linked to a glorious past and the interpretive anachronisms precipitated by the inroads of such an image. Yet the festival organizers confront a crisis of identity for, like the Javanese funeral in Geertz's study, this festival has largely failed to deliver a coherent sense of self for South Sumatra's diverse population. Here again there is a crisis in fitting together the cultural and social: taking a less global view of culture, the maximal identity schema does not fit the pattern of social relations involving daily interactions between Malays from various provinces, or between Malays, Chinese, Indians and other groups.

This festival is, in a sense, a miniature of the nation-building process and project. South Sumatran leaders, like their national counterparts, are confronted with the postcolonial problem of welding hundreds of ethnic and religious groups into a unified nation, while striving to achieve modernity and economic development by means of attracting capital investment. On both the regional and national level a culture of crisis is evident not only in the lack of fit between the cultural and the social, but more importantly by the manner in which hegemonic identity constructions mask class disparities, mute alternative voices, and fail to represent all the citizens and long-time residents. In times of economic crisis these oppositional representations tend to foster a pattern of blaming the non-represented outsiders.

The cultural crisis precipitated by the lack of fit, or artificiality, of dominant identity constructs and ritual failure is exacerbated by the narrow definition of goals stemming from the hegemony of state ideology. Dominant identity constructs lack substance in terms of fitting actual patterns of social relations, and the goals they entail fail to deliver the material benefits of economic development and modernity. The pattern of extreme class polarization, desperation and despair not only needs a more fitting myth but also requires a "useful fiction"(29) which can be invoked to formulate plans, projects and policies to improve the everyday realities of people's lives.

This is a revised version of a paper originally presented at the joint meetings of the American Ethnological Society and the Canadian Anthropological Association, 7-10 May 1998, in Toronto. The fieldwork was conducted during the summers of 1995 and 1997. Special thanks are given to the Department of Anthropology of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Social Science Research Council, the Keller Research Fund, and the Center for Pacific and East Asian Studies at the University of Illinois for funding my research in Indonesia. I would like to thank the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) for arranging my research visa and Sriwijaya University for providing the required institutional affiliation. I would also like to thank F.K. Lehman, Arlene Torres, Janet Keller and Clark Cunningham for reading various drafts of this paper and offering suggestions for its improvement.

1 Clifford Geertz, Social History of an Indonesian Town (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965).

2 Clifford Geertz, "Ritual and Social Change: A Javanese Example", in his The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (BasicBooks, 1973), pp. 142-69.

3 See Toby A. Volkman, "The Periphery and the Past: Identity in Tana Toraja", in Southeast Asian Tribal Groups and Ethnic Minorities (Cambridge, MA: Cultural Survival Inc., 1987), p. 103. See also Michel Picard, Bali, Cultural Tourism and Touristic Culture (Singapore: Archipelago Press, 1996), p. 43.

4 Steve Douglas, "Indonesia's State Ideology, the Pancasila" (Paper, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1996).

5 Stephen J. Lansing, The Balinese (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1995), p. 117.

6 Toby A. Volkman, "The Periphery and the Past" and Michel Picard, Bali, Cultural Tourism. See also Clark Cunningham, "The Interaction of Cultural Performances, Tourism, and Ethnicity: An Introduction", Journal of Musicological Research 17 (1998): 81-85.

7 Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, "Introduction: Inventing Traditions", in The Invention of Tradition, ed. E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 1-14.

8 Eric Hobsbawm, "Mass-Producing Traditions: Europe, 1870-1914", in Hobsbawm and Ranger, ed., The Invention of Tradition, p. 262. See also Susan Wright, "'Heritage' and Critical History in the Reinvention of a Mining Festival in North-east England", in Revitalizing European Rituals, ed. Jeremy Boissevain (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 20-42.

9 See Allan Hanson, "The Making of the Maori: Culture Invention and Its Logic", American Anthropologist 91 (1989): 890-902; and Jocelyn Linnekin, "Cultural Invention and the Dilemma of Authenticity", American Anthropologist 93 (1991): 444-49. See also Karsten Poerragard, "Imagining a Place in the Andes: In the Borderland of Lived, Invented, and Analyzed Culture", in Siting Culture, ed. Karen Fog Olwig and Kirsten Harstrup (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 39-58.

10 Claudia Strauss, "What Makes Tony Run? Schemas as Motives Reconsidered", in Human Motives and Cultural Models, ed. Roy G. D'Andrade and Claudia Strauss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 197, describes schemata as "packets of knowledge" stored in memory as "conceptual abstractions that mediate between stimuli received by the sense organs and behavioral responses". As demonstrated in Michael Agar, "Stories, Background Knowledge and Themes: Problems in the Analysis of Life History Narrative" (American Ethnologist 7,2 [1980]: 223-38), and Michael Agar and J. Hobbs, "How to Grow Schemata out of Interviews" (in Directions in Cognitive Anthropology, ed. Janet Dougherty [Urbana: University of Illinois Press], pp. 413-31), it is schemata which give coherence to discourse as they bundle together disparate segments of expression. F.K. Lehman, in his "Cognitive Science Research Notes" (Papers, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1994), stresses descriptive rigor and makes the distinction between schemata (relatively specific, detail-rich representations frequently stored somewhere in memory) and models (which lack rich detail and are often constructed, at least partially, in practice as heuristic devices). Claudia Strauss, "What Makes Tony Run?", demonstrates that schemata may be internalized in different ways and that these different "ways of knowing" may directly influence the way they motivate behavior. My analysis in this paper stems from a domain-specific theoretical perspective presented by Laurence Hirschfeld and Susan Gelman's "Overview", in Mapping the Mind: Domain Specificity in Cognition and Culture, ed. Hirschfeld and Gelman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 3-35. They view schemata of identity as knowledge of a social relational domain used to identify and interpret certain attributes of human beings and to produce classificatory and evaluative schemes of social identities. The domain of social relations constructs categories of social identity, associating and assigning role-functions and statuses with social identities; see discussion of diagrams later in this paper. Robert R. Sands and F.K. Lehman in their paper "The Nature of Social Identity and Identity Relationships" (University of Illinois, Urbana, 1995), correcting Keesings' and Parsons' conflation of identities and behavioral expectations, use clear conceptual distinctions between slots and fillers and between positions and individuals to demonstrate the abstract relational quality of social identities and behavioral and knowledge expectations of role-functions. Similarly, status is the regard or value the slot or position holds. They state (p. 22), "it is the lower levels (or facets) that refer to function and status which combine to form social identities". A social identity may have several role-functions and these may change over time. More broadly, knowledge structures that organize and constrain the domain of social relations generate a limited number of categories of identity as well as many role-functions.

11 David B. Evans and Nurimansjah Hasibuan, "South Sumatra: Dualism and Export Orientation", in Unity and Diversity: Regional Economic Development in Indonesia since 1970, ed. Hal Hill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 455-72.

12 O.W. Wolters, The Fall of Srivijaya in Malay History (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1970), shows the importance of Malay maritime empires' links to the China trade. The strength and prosperity of the Sriwijaya and Melayu Jambi kingdoms fluctuated with the waxing and waning of economic ties with China, and with world trade patterns spanning oceans and seas, from the seventh to the fourteenth centuries. Wolters argues that the shift of the Malay capital from Palembang to Jambi during the Eleventh Century, and the Fourteenth Century move from Southeast Sumatra to the Malay Peninsula must be seen as evidence of the powerful influences China trade had upon local dynamics.

13 Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, "Introduction: Inventing Traditions", p. 1.

14 Local civil servants claim that Festival Sriwijaya grew out of the Bachelor-Bachelorette Palembang pageant which made its debut in 1988 and was staged for its tenth year in 1997. The form and process are similar to the Prince and Princess of Sriwijaya pageant, which has been a part of the Festival Sriwijaya since its inception in 1991.

15 The provincial festival cycle includes Musi Festival, held on 17 August in connection with National Independence Day celebrations; Lake Ranau Festival, held to celebrate the New Year from December 27-31; and Traditional Raft Races held in Lahat on the Lematang River on 6 August.

16 Regencies are territorial units developed during the period of Dutch colonial rule and continued by the Republic of Indonesia after political independence in 1949. Dutch colonial administrators used these territorial units to extend indirect colonial rule through bupati, or regents, to areas of Netherlands East Indies outside the realm of direct control. The Dutch words for these places, such as landschap (region), stress geographical space rather than territories associated with the identities of its inhabitants. For usage of landschap in Dutch records, see G. J. Resink, Indonesia's History Between the Myths, Essays in Legal History and Historical Theory (The Hague: W. van Hoeve Publishers Ltd, 1968), p. 433.

17 Dangdut is a form of Indonesian popular upbeat music which exhibits strong Indic influence in its rhythms and instrumentation. Although many middle and upper-class and Islamic revivalist sectors frown upon this musical form, it is highly televised and popular amongst the Indonesian masses and is frequently used as entertainment in Palembang wedding receptions.

18 "Proto" is used before the name of languages to refer to linguistic reconstructions of "parent" languages of a family of structurally related languages. In contemporary historical linguistics, language, culture and phenotypic characteristics are distinct and only considered to be interwoven through historical processes. However, in the local elite discourse discussed in this paper, "Proto-Malay" is a cultural construct which conflates language, culture and biology.

19 Sands and Lehman, in "The Nature of Social Identity and Identity Relationships", draw an important distinction between "maximal identities" and "particular functional identities". Maximal identities refer to conceptions and constructions of "one's total social persona" and are conveniently assumed to represent "a whole culture, or way of life". For instance, ethnicity, race, and nationality often comprise maximal identities. Particular functional identities are specific social positions such as secretary, student, civil servant, and so on, that entail a more limited conception of social persona and a less broad range of knowledge structures. Sands and Lehman demonstrate that maximal identities influence the performance or role-behavior of particular functional identities; sprinters behave differently as sprinters based upon whether they think of themselves as "Black" or "middle-class" American.

20 "Festival Sriwijaya VII Pilar Kebudayaan Nasional", Sumatera Ekspres, 19 June 1997.

21 Benedict R. O'G. Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983), uses the concept "imagined communities" to characterize nations as cultural entities conceived by their members as a non-hierarchical collectivity in which they are connected in an abstract, non-face-to-face and non-kinship-based fashion. This attempt to distinguish nations from previous political communities is problematic in its assumption that members of polities prior to the emergence of nations thought primarily in "particularistic" style, while members of nations think primarily in an abstract fashion. On the contrary, ethnographic research indicates that people in even small hunter-gatherer or horticultural groups think of themselves not only as being related to particular people but also as being members of abstract social units such as domestic groups, lineages and clans. Furthermore, Benedict Anderson's usage of "imagined community" is rooted in the false premise that kinship is a system based on the relations between particular persons rather than an abstract rule-based system. In this paper, I use the notion of "imagined communities" in a broad fashion to refer to culturally constructed collectivities which persons conceive themselves as belonging to or being a part of. This notion of community is closely related to identity; just as one may have multiple identities, one may also belong to multiple imagined communities. As for the Indonesian national community, it tends to be imagined as a "vertical" rather than a "horizontal comradeship". Moreover, the broad usage I deploy in this paper leaves open the possibility of answering the important "who", "what" and "where" questions that Clark Cunningham suggests we put to such cultural constructions. For a discussion of the latter, see Margaret Sarkissian, "Cultural Chameleons: Portuguese Eurasian Strategies for Survival in Post-Colonial Malaysia", Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 28,2 (1997): 250. Finally, as F.K. Lehman has pointed out (personal communication, 15 June 1998), Anderson's limited notion of "imagined communities" fails to account for the widespread use of religion by pre-industrial states to unite diverse social groups into a single political realm. For a historical description of how the first ruler of Burma, Anawrahta, used Buddhism to organize several "tribes" into a single polity (Pagan), see Maung Htin Aung, A History of Burma (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), pp. 36-37.

22 "Festival Sriwijaya VII".

23 See F.K. Lehman, "Cognitive Science Research Notes".

24 See Edward M. Bruner, "Batak Ethnic Associations in Three Indonesian Cities", Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 28,3 (1972): 207-229; and the same author's "The Expression of Ethnicity in Indonesia", in Urban Ethnicity, ed. Abner Cohen (London: Tavistock Publications, 1974), pp. 251-80.

25 For a broad discussion of elite and middle classes and their relationships to the state in New Order Indonesia, see Richard Robison, "The Middle Class and Bourgeoisie in Indonesia", in The New Rich in Asia, ed. Richard Robison and David S.G. Goodman (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 79-104.

26 In Ogan Komering Ulu regency, the term "Haji" is used to refer to a particular group of people, as distinct from a person who has made the Hajj to Mecca.

27 See F.K. Lehman, The Relevance of the Founder's Cult for Understanding the Political Systems of the Peoples of Northern South-East Asia and its Chinese Borderlands (New Haven: Yale Southeast Asian Studies Series, in press), for a full discussion of this cultural phenomenon in mainland Southeast Asia. This paper suggests that the phenomenon of "founder's cults" is relevant to the study of insular Southeast Asia as well, particularly in regard to coastal Malay political systems. Lorraine V. Aragon, "Twisting the Gift: Translating Precolonial into Colonial Exchanges in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia", American Ethnologist 23,1 (1996): 43-60, also demonstrates that founder's cults were present in the highlands of Central Sulawesi.

28 Dakwah is derived from the Arabic term da'wah, which is a complex concept rooted in Islamic texts and refers to the Muslim responsibility to call people to the Islamic faith and to take actions against ideas and practices deemed contrary to Islamic principles. For a discussion of Islamic revivalist movements in nineteenth-century Java, see Sartono Kartodirdjo, Protest Movements in Rural Java (London: Oxford University Press, 1973). On dakwah movements during the first half of the twentieth century in Indonesia, see Delia Noer, The Modernist Muslim Movement in Indonesia, 1900-1942 (London: Oxford University Press, 1973). For an examination of Islamic revivalist groups in post-independence Malaysia, see Judith Nagata, "Religious Ideology and Social Change: The Islamic Revival in Malaysia", Pacific Affairs 53 (1980): 405-439. Hidayatuttah 10 (Apr. 1998) and 11 (May 1998) discuss the involvement of student dakwah groups in the massive demonstrations of 1998 which culminated in the resignation of President Suharto on 21 May 1998.

29 Renato Rosaldo, "Border Crossings", in his Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989), p. 217.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Cambridge University Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Daniels, Timothy P.
Publication:Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
Date:Mar 1, 1999
Words:8329
Previous Article:Military Mortality in Tropical Asia: British Troops in Tenasserim, 1827-36.
Next Article:The Colonial Heritage of Human Rights in Indonesia: The Case of the Vote for Women, 1916-41.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters