Printer Friendly

Surabaya kampung and distorted communication.

In the context of a wider theory of communication, Jurgen Habermas has insisted on a distinction between manipulation and distorted communication. This distinction points out the difference between lies and ideology. Manipulation is always strategic, where one of the actors in a communicative situation convinces another of his good faith, while hiding his real intent. In distorted communication, on the other hand, the distorting actor deludes both himself and the object of his communication regarding his honesty and good faith. Habermas sees both as "pathologies" and as aspects of "strategic action", which is action oriented to the achievement of goals. The opposite of strategic action is "communicative action", which is oriented to mutual understanding and consensus and constituting "ideal" communication (Habermas 1979).

Reported here is a study of a conflict over riverbank settlements in Surabaya where each side in the conflict held multiple goals and where self-presentation was crucial to "winning". (1) To what extent do we witness, variously, manipulation and distorted communication? Does the Habermas distinction help one to understand what is going on?

Habermas was careful to indicate that his theory relates to verbal communication and the uses of language. What distinguishes the Surabaya case, however, is that the communication is only partly verbal--the representation of the built environment and of oneself in that environment is also a principal medium of communication. More recently, Habermas has begun to acknowledge the significance of non-verbal communication, acknowledging that actions, gestures, traditions, institution and world views can all enter into validity claims (Habermas 2007). Linked to such communication is dramaturgical action.

Dramaturgical action refers to participants-in-interaction constituting a public for one another, to whom they present themselves. In this setting the actor presents a certain image or impression of him/herself, thus revealing a particular subjectivity. This "presentation of self" does not suggest impulsive expressive performance but a stylization of the expression of one's own experiences with a view to the audience. Such action can become entwined in manipulation and distorted communication, as "dramaturgical action can take on latent strategic qualities to the degree that the actor treats his audience as opponents rather than as public" (Habermas 1984, p. 112). The present study will view the "design" of the residential environment as a manifestation of dramaturgical action.

The method of this study is ethnographic: five of the affected kampungs were observed from 2004 to 2008 though most intensively during 2006 and 2007. Community residents, leaders, activists, nongovernmental organizations (NGO) actors, and representatives of the city authority and city House of Representatives were interviewed and both the routine life and significant events of the kampungs were observed, while the longer history of the struggle was studied through media archives, official and NGO reports, and the memories of long-term residents.

Surabaya Background

The Kali Brantas is a significant south-to-north river crossing Java. Towards Surabaya its name changes to Kali Surabaya then, at Wonokromo on the southern outskirts of Surabaya, it bifurcates into a northerly branch, the Kali Mas at whose estuary grew the city of Surabaya, and an east-flowing branch, the Kali Wonokromo. Colonial-Dutch Surabaya developed southwards from its port, lineally along a road parallel to the Kali Mas and variously named along its length (Faber 1931). Kali Mas, in turn, became a linear zone of decidedly polluting industry.

Following the end of the War of Independence in 1949, Surabaya like other large Indonesian cities was somewhat overrun with refugees from the countryside seeking a better (urban) life. Surabaya accordingly became a city of kampungs and, on most accounts, of social collapse. Its history is recounted in depth in Dick (2003); the wider context of Java kampungs is surveyed in Guinness (2009).

The subsequent regeneration of Surabaya is inextricably linked to the Kampung Improvement Program (KIP) initiated in 1969. The various phases of the KIP have transformed vast areas of the city. They are especially associated with the name and advocacy of Johan Silas, a professor in Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (ITS)--both Silas and ITS eventually being accorded almost hero status in Surabaya (Silas 1996 and 2002).

Surabaya's other significant reform was the progressive rehabilitation of the Kali Mas riverbanks (Santosa 2000). Industry and squatter settlements were cleared, landscaping programmes initiated, recreational activities instituted, and the image of the city as a "waterfront city" became a civic focus. A goal was set to clean all riverbank areas along the Kali Surabaya and Wonokromo and to plan the riverbank area as a "green corridor", subsequently represented in the Surabaya Vision Plan (EDAW 2005). The plan aimed to transform Surabaya into a "Waterfront City" modelled after Singapore, Manila, Hong Kong, Melbourne, San Diego and Shenzhen. Most specifically, Surabaya would be "another Singapore" and there are certainly no kampung along the Singapore River. A second agenda related to flood control: much of Surabaya is below sea level and the city is frequently flooded.

While uncoordinated urban development has increased run-off, and hence flooding, it has been more convenient to blame encroachment of riverbank kampung settlements into the river.

The 2002 Eviction

The first stage of the clean-up was an eviction and demolition of three kampungs (Nginden, Wonorejo, and Semampir) stretching over about five kilometres of the river from 11 to 13 March 2002. Some 1,150 houses were demolished (Jasa Tirta 2002). The initiators, it seems, were the provincial-level Irrigation Department with Surabaya municipal support. There was much violence and police with tracker dogs were used to assail the barricades erected by resisting Madurese (myth had it that Madurese are afraid of dogs). Extensive media coverage both demonized the riverbank kampungs ("the criminal and prostitution base camp", proclaimed Jawa Pos newspaper on 2 January 2002) and ensured that surviving kampungs would "get the message", in displays of quite blatantly "strategic" (as distinct from "ideal") communication.

There was a vague offer of walk-up public housing flats for evicted residents, except that the flats had not yet been built. As these were very poor communities, most could not afford to rent elsewhere so many simply camped on the local roadway only to be attacked again. In 2004, after two years of floating homelessness, some 700 of the residents were eventually resettled by the municipality in low-income rental flats.


The threat of eviction and demolition hung Damocles-like over the still surviving riverbank kampungs. There was also a political paralysis in the inability of the provincial House of Representatives to release a law pertaining to river management--the Irrigation Department could operate in something of a policy vacuum. The pro-clearance authorities additionally recruited the advice of Johan Silas to their support thereby ensuring that both Silas and the ITS would be perceived as "enemies" by the riverbank communities.

Any coordinated resistance from the affected kampungs was inhibited by the fragmentary form of local management/governance in Indonesia. The core, grassroots element of self--government in Indonesia is the Rukun Tetangga (RT, Household Association), comprising some thirty to fifty households in the Surabaya situation where its leader is nominated through the traditional Indonesian form of consensual democracy. The next, higher level of self-governance is the Rukun Warga (RW, Neighbourhood Association) which brings together some eight to sixteen RTs. The boundaries of an RT and the configuration of which RTs will constitute an RW are, however, determined "from above". The most immediate level of "above" is the kelurahan, somewhat equivalent to a municipal ward in an English or Australian system of local government. The kdurahan is headed by a lurah who is not elected from below but is, instead, appointed as a salaried position by the higher levels of the city-wide administration. The next higher level is the kecamatan or district headed by a camat who, like the lurah, is a salaried officer of the city. Then, finally, there is the city government itself in an uneasy relationship with its local legislature. Although the RT and RW heads are not government appointed, they are commonly perceived by their subjects as "authority" and put in place to administer government policy. Indeed, in the Suharto New Order dictatorship, this top-down governance system had been increasingly suborned by the state for social control and business advantage--kampung evictions in Jakarta to enable regime investments, for example (Jellinek 1991; Winayanti 2005).

The consequence of this structure is that (1) there is a fragmentation of local communities which is imposed and can be managed "from above", (2) there is no mechanism for communication or alliance between individual communities (RTs) that might otherwise have a community of interest, and (3) any communication between the grassroots and the city can be "managed" by the city-appointed lurah. There is, of course, one other element in this otherwise neat system: the NGOs boast of their ability to cut through such structures.

In the context of Indonesia's early 2000s rush to democracy, the 2002 eviction triggered university activists to join the fray as their contribution to grassroots democratic action. Known as PRODEM (for pro-democracy), the activists moved to motivate four of the surviving riverbank communities to form a unified organization. PRODEM subsequently became JERIT (an acronym for the disadvantaged society network) transforming into an intercity movement and extending its activities to Jakarta where it came into contact with Wardah Hafidz, a significant figure in UPLINK (for urban poverty linkage), a broad-based NGO with international links. JERIT and UPLINK collaborated to assist the Surabaya riverbank communities.

The lurah displayed a non-involvement which may have been a mask to disguise a pro-eviction stance; the RT leaders were either indifferent or compromised. The consequence was that the kampung communities were brought together by the NGOs to form a new federation termed a riverbank paguyuban (the term derives from the Javanese "guyub" meaning a gathering of people with a particular emotional link). The riverbank paguyuban functions as a federation. At its top is a three-person presidium--really an advisory group of respected citizens. Below the presidium is SEKJEND (for secretary-general) who is the executive leader. UPLINK members have no position in this structure although the reality is that they provide both the driving force and the intellectual (or is it ideological?) base to the movement. The rhetoric is that all paguyuban members are equal (vide the hierarchical structure of RW/RT/kelurahan), but the reality, however, is that members perform different roles and that the SEKJEND is the operational leader in the structure.

At the kampung level, an extension of the SEKJEND's role is that of the korwil (acronym for area coordinator) where in each kampung or RT there is a coordinator for each programme, be it savings, alternative health, waste disposal management, children's learning, etc. Triennial elections are planned to provide members to the paguyuban. Although its strongly articulated democracy might be in some contrast with the top-down structure of the lurah, RW and RT, the parallelism between the two structures can be seen, in large measure, as a critique of the official system.

About two years after the establishment of the paguyuban, the two NGOs JERIT and UPLINK split, with each assisting different kampungs. The communities also split to form two paguyuban with the kampungs Baru, Jagir and Jambangan being assisted by JERIT, while kampungs Bratang, Gunung Sari, Kebraon, Karang Pilang, and Medokan Semampir worked with UPLINK. Of these, the present study observed kampungs Bratang, Gunung Sari, Kebraon, Medokan Semampir, and Baru, with the main focus being on Bratang, which is seen as the vanguard of the resistance.

The Second Wave of Eviction

Approaching the 2004 presidential elections, the riverbank kampungs faced a second wave of eviction threat. The targets were the riverbank communities that had not yet joined the paguyuban, including kampung Medokan Semanpir which then promptly joined. The municipal government announced that there had been an agreement between the riverbank communities, the Irrigation Department, the Surabaya government, and Jasa Tirta (state-owned enterprise for watershed management), to the effect that the communities would be placed in walk-up flats and compensated for their re-location. The riverbank communities were outraged, asserting that there had been no such agreement and that the communication had been grossly distorted (or is it manipulated?). It is significant that the NGOs had been excluded from the alleged negotiations.

The NGOs were able to boost the community's resistance. The legislature, which had been mired in the riverbank controversy, also supported the community's struggle. Thus on the day scheduled for the demolition, legislature members and community members successfully blockaded access to the affected kampung. Action was abandoned, but not until after there had been destruction of the RT office of Kampung Medokan Semampir.

Kampung Culture and Alternative Forms of Association

Although the paguyuban might have been an introduced structure, it could build on established practices of long lineage. There is first gotong royong, a broad set of ideas and practices of mutual support and self-help, solidarity, and local cooperation that is fundamental to Indonesian life; it is a special attribute in the national life of kampung people (Notoatmodjo 1962, pp. 26-27; Koentjaraningrat 1989, p. 2). Many respondents referred to the importance of gotong royong at the time when, as squatters, the various kampungs were established and their primitive houses were built cooperatively. While houses might now be built through more formal processes, gatong royang remains central to management of the kampung alley and public spaces. Linked to gotong royong is kerja bakti or duty work--the allocation of specific tasks around the kampung.

More formal is arisan, a rotating credit association; in conformity with Islamic principles there is both male and female arisan, each meeting monthly and serving as a means of meeting socially in poor communities (although wealthy communities will also practise it). In Kampung Bratang, arisan continued after establishment of the paguyuban but its structure of meetings was appropriated for paguyuban business under the korwil.

Pengajian is another activity for bridging across a kampung community. This is a study group, meeting regularly for Muslims to deepen their ability to read the Qur'an as well as to seek a deeper understanding of Islam. In Kampung Bratang it occurs fortnightly for both men's and women's pengajian. While arisan might be suborned for paguyuban business, pengajian is sacrosanct--this is purely religious. Its significance in the present context is as a manifestation of a culture of local scale association and shared experience. It also serves a strategic function, intended or otherwise: the community can be projected as a prayerful, moral community and dark impressions are to be countered.

It is worth recalling that these traditional forms of association and action predate the RT/RW structure which was based on the traditional Japanese form of local governance and imposed on Indonesia during the brief 1940s Japanese occupation for the purposes of radi (forced works) and subsequently translated into independent Indonesia as a structure for administration and control. Although arisan subsequently tended to operate under the RT structure, with the RT leader and his wife assuming leadership of male and female arisan respectively, these various practices are deeply embedded in the culture itself. They accordingly provided a base on which the paguyuban could build its own activities.

An example of this is tabungan, a new form of savings group brought in by UPLINK in 2003, modelled on a system operating in canal communities in Thailand, to support paguyuban cohesiveness. It is run by female residents and has two main functions: to familiarize people with a culture of saving and as a medium of communication and advocacy. The wider, strategic function of tabungan is clear from an interview with an activist resident of Kampung Bratang where it was initiated:

Saving is a tool of advocacy which is a tool to inform people that we, the riverbank community, have a consciousness to save. The aim of saving is not individually but collectively. It also serves as a tool of internal communication between paguyuban and the residents .... Therefore the main function of saving is to strengthen internal networking. (interview, 2006)

With various modifications, the savings system also operates in kampungs Gunung Sari, Kebraon, and Medokan Semampir. While participation is voluntary, the strength of the system from UPLINK's perspective is that, as it operates on a daily basis, it is able continually to monitor community events.

Resistance: Kampung and Dramaturgical Action

While the paguyuban structure facilitated a united voice for the threatened riverbank kampungs, the more physical actions of individual communities reveal the new sense of strategic action injected into the conflict. A range of elements would typically be used: the kampung alley will be improved as indicator of community solidarity, and the houses will indicate the respectability of the households and their efforts in self-improvement. The gapura or kampung gate will signify identity and the notion of community yet, at the same time, it fragments any sense of a wider community. A gapura also projects the idea of welcome yet, against that, defence and privacy, reinforced by the gardu or RT post where one might request entry to the kampung. Noticeboards will also mark entry; however, they will also be used for posting community information, slogans, and claims of environmental responsibility. A masjid (mosque) or mushola (prayer hall) will indicate a respectful, prayerful community; it might also be a claim for permanence--the authorities might demolish houses but pause before bringing destruction to a mosque.

The endeavours to project an image of the community through the representation of the built environment varied between kampungs as the following listing will recount.

1. Kampung Bratang

Kampung Bratang occupies the elevated north levee bank of Kali Wonokromo and is distantly visible--embarrassingly so, for the municipal authorities--from the Jagir bridge which is a main gateway to the city. An interviewed becak (pedi-cab) driver described how, in 1954, he first came to the area, then under the control of Napsan, a foreman of the irrigation system who allowed him to erect a shack in return for a two rupiah "compensation"--even today it is recognized that this is "government land" which cannot to be purchased, and so it is exchanged on the basis of paying compensation for the plants that could otherwise be grown there. In 1956, the becak driver built a house and in 1957 other squatters arrived and their appropriation of land led to the establishment of a settlement. In 1963-64, some local leaders agitated to have the emerging Bratang kampung officially registered as RTs, which was achieved by 1966. Respondents described the "official" position of then mayor Soekotjo: an unoccupied site could be used by Surabaya residents as long as they took care of the environment and became good citizens.

In 1974, residents received a letter, presumably from the municipality, ordering the demolition of their houses, but there was no follow-up. The riverbank kampung expanded eastwards, mostly composed of migrants from surrounding villages fleeing from poverty. In the 1980s and 1990s, the residents tended to fall into two groups, namely members of the Indonesian Armed Forces (mostly Navy) and their families, and less reputable "others" including becak drivers, informal recyclers, traditional street "artists", etc. When an Armed Forces member became RT leader, his effort would be to convert the "others" into the image of respectable citizens--appearances mattered. (2)

The settlement form is fairly typical of riverbank squatter kampungs: a narrow alley along the levee, one to two metres wide, with small houses on each side, and houses were made of improvised materials. With increasing affluence, a household might extend its house--typically towards the river or with an additional storey--and progressively rebuild it in more permanent materials. Most would be built/re-built by the residents with the help of relatives and the guidance of a "handyman". More than seventy-five per cent of houses are less than fifty square metres and the households are usually made up of extended families. There were four RTs and the social clustering of households approximates the RT structure.

Access to the riverbank for cleaning and maintenance purposes is frequently used by the Irrigation Department as a means to harass the kampung communities. Because the tight use of space and the density of houses in the Bratang case make access to the riverbank almost impossible; accordingly, the community has put its greatest effort to project an image of environmental responsibility, alley improvement, and displays of waste management and greening.

Kampung Bratang makes special use of gapura at each end of the alley. The gapura proudly display the Surabaya Municipality emblem to claim the community's place in the city, as some sort of defence against the city's eviction threat over them. However, they also emphasize separation from the allegedly less reputable riverbank communities to their east and west. It is thus an ambivalent claim by the community.

2. Kampung Baru

Kampung Baru (New kampung) is Kampung Bratang's immediate but unwanted neighbour, its nemesis and alter ego. As its name implies, it is the newest of the riverbank kampungs built on previously abandoned land between the Jagir bridge and Kampung Bratang. Some shacks were built, probably in the 1960s, for prostitution by night and scavenger use by day. The scavengers came from a nearby squatter community located on railway land named Lumumba. The settlement expanded in the 1990s but was then demolished as part of the 2002 eviction programme, only to be quickly rebuilt--apparently the prostitution boss had very good links to both preman (gangsters) and government and could "arrange" things.

The riverbank pathway in this area is only wide enough for a single line of houses rather than the two lines of Kampung Bratang. Whereas the demolished houses had been built along the riverbank, the residents reasoned that in rebuilding it would be smarter to be away from the bank in order to ensure maintenance access to the river. This would mean constructing against the wall of the water-processing factory, PDAM, with the pathway now along the bank. Nevertheless, the shacks have subsequently been relocated yet again, back to their original position.

In Kampung Baru, residents can be grouped in two main occupation clusters, namely prostitutes and scavengers in the west and east sections respectively. The area is popularly associated with crime, disorder, pollution of the river, and burglary of its neighbouring areas. In recent years, the slightly more respectable eastern section has commenced construction of a rnushola in part to claim some moral high ground and in part to provide a venue for moral education of their children. For similar reasons, they also constructed a gapura between the two sections. Then, in 2005, they removed the gapura to the western end of the settlement and replaced it with new signage proclaiming "Jogo Kali", Guardians of the River, presumably to counter their bad reputation as people who were polluting the river. There is no gapura at the eastern end, adjoining Kampung Bratang, as an as-yet-unachieved goal of the eastern section is to be accepted as part of the seemingly more secure Bratang. Instead there is a sculpture of a Semar, a low-level hero in local mythology, a wise and good figure whose virtues are to be replicated in the attitudes of the residents--and again the proclamation of Guardians of the River.

Of the five kampungs studied here, Kampung Baru was the only one which was unable to register an RT structure; accordingly, its existence has no official recognition. Yet, however, it is the most publicly visible, the most run-down, and the most vulnerable to eviction.

3. Kampung Kebraon

Kampung Kebraon, according to the accounts of older residents, existed before Independence in 1945 when it was called Kampung Gebang. It was burnt down during the War of Independence and, in its present form, dates back from 1975 when members of the Indonesian Navy decided to build their own housing compound there. Many of the Navy members subsequently sold their plots to Army members. Given the background of the residents, Kampung Kebraon is thus distinctive in its order, regularity, in the more permanent construction of its houses, and in its social and economic structure. It is also distinctive among riverbank kampungs in having had a KIP grant to improve on its already higher standards.

Spaces have been cleared by the community to provide the authorities with access to the riverbank. There has been a considerable landscaping effort, mostly at the level of the individual household. Overall, the strategy of Kampung Kebraon can be characterized as projecting an image of good environmental management.

4. Kampung Gunung Sari

Kampung Gunung Sari had been developed by the Dutch as a military officer housing area with houses lining the road parallel to but away from the river. On Independence, the houses reverted to the Indonesian military and were off-limits to squatters. The other side of the road, fronting the river, was under the Irrigation Department and thereby outside the Army jurisdiction. Refugees from the rural villages accordingly established their kampung there, which was in part led by preman (gangland members). Kampung Gunung Sari is a classic case of muddled rights of occupation because (1) the Irrigation Department formally granted rights for building a factory, which was subsequently subverted; (2) the area was also managed by some Madurese who obtained "permission" from a local officer of the Irrigation Department but who built shelters instead; and then (3) there were squatters who openly did not bother applying for tenure, either formally or informally. To further complicate the occupancy/ tenure ambiguity, an RT leader reported that in 1975, when he first moved there, the riverbank was in a different location before people started to encroach and build new houses on the fifteen to twenty metre stretch of new land next to the riverbank. This has become a problem now that the Irrigation Department wants to return the river to its earlier configuration.

Kampung Gunung Sari presents the most dramatic case of a community-coordinated response to official threats. As houses had been constructed along the riverbank, these had effectively blocked access to the river for normal maintenance. A few members of the community came to realize that efforts on their part to provide access to the river would have a legitimizing effect and benefit the community. An informant, active in both RT and paguyuban, recounted the events with enthusiasm: in line with the Indonesian culture of seeking consensus, meetings were conducted to discuss possibilities to give "the authorities" access to the river bank by demolishing several houses. Not unreasonably, the affected householders were not enthusiastic over this tactic. Seven activists accordingly decided for the wider community and simply destroyed several houses. The informant commented:

... many people were screaming and crying when we tore apart their houses, but we had made up out minds. We needed to face our houses to the river to improve the river condition. (interview, 2006)

Thus consensus decision making in the community was negated in that the affected householders' objections did not prevent the decision to demolish their houses. The access paths that were then constructed thus had the effect of invalidating the Irrigation Department's rationale for removing the kampung. Respondents also reported other effects such as the access ways providing additional open space for recreation and, in rendering the riverbank more visible to the residents, attitudes of people changed as they came to accept responsibility for environmental care.

Another significance of Kampung Gunung Sari is in demonstrating the wider goals of the NGOs. While the 2002 eviction may have been the event triggering the NGO intervention and the riverbank paguyuban, NGO workers saw the ensuing task as one of community building and not just kampung defence. For example, children's education and other similar activities were all part of the NGOs' wider goals. A goal central to the NGOs is the literacy and stimulated learning of children. To address the major problem of access to children's libraries in poor Indonesian communities, libraries were established by NGOs in Kampung Gunung Sari and Kampung Medokan Semampir. In Kampung Kebraon and Kampung Bratang, children's libraries were integrated with the RT post, while Kampung Baru, under a different NGO, has no library.

Kampung Gunung Sari is the largest of the kampungs studied here, with around 1,500 permanent residents and 75 to 100 seasonal workers. As in Kampung Bratang, the social atmosphere is that of a "big family" (except, one suspects, for those whose houses were sacrificed to achieve this happy outcome).

5. Kampung Medokan Semampir

The story behind Kampung Medokan Semampir started in 1983 when a settlement known as Ngemplak was evicted because the legal owner, the Indonesian Navy, intended to sell it for real estate development. The evicted residents had not known that the land was in dispute when they "bought" it from a third party. With no prospect of compensation, they sought to negotiate with the kelurahan, the Navy, and the Irrigation Department, with the outcome that they were allowed to move to the riverbank until the Navy could find a solution for them--they are still there. The kampung achieved a measure of official recognition when, in 1995, they were joined with a nearby neighbourhood in an RT structure.

Of the kampungs studied, Kampung Medokan Semampir exhibits the least sense of community solidarity. There are no gapura and few other indicators of identity. There is, however, a children's library which, like that of Kampung Gunung Sari, was built at the instigation of an NGO. There is also one other very significant projection of a desired identity: the kampung has taken waste management to a higher level of responsibility by establishing a waste depot where garbage is assembled, separated into categories, and then sold on to processors and recyclers. Kampung Gunung Sari has a somewhat similar programme and facility though at a lower scale and more focused on producing compost.

Kampung as Theatre

Finally in this consideration of the exaggerated projections of identity, whether or not to be seen as dramaturgical action in the Habermasian sense, one needs to observe those times when the kampungs quite literally become theatrical performance. Two such regular events require comment.

17 Agustus-an celebrates the anniversary of Indonesian independence on 17 August 1945. The event is typically merrier and more colourful in kampungs than elsewhere in Indonesian communities: special food is prepared, games arranged and children will perform plays and other performances. More than mere celebration, the event can also be used to project ideas of community, citizenship, national pride, and identity.

An ancient custom of the early Javanese Majapahit kingdom was larung sungai, to thank God for the beneficence of the rivers. It persisted as a local festival in the town of Kediri where it is celebrated on 27 July. This festival was unexpectedly performed by the Surabaya and Wonokromo riverbank kampungs after the 2002 eviction, involving the communities, NGOs, legislature members, and political figures. Traditional food and ritual items were placed in a small boat which was carried in a procession through the kampung to the river, with traditional dress and dancing, and then launched into the river. The event was presaged on the Sunday before the festival by vigorous activity of kerja bakti (duty work) to clean the river. The underlying projection is yet again that of the community as jogo kali, river guards. A comment from paguyuban member Sumiarti Sukirno:

Larung Sungai festival demonstrates the intimate relationship between the riverbank community and the river, since most of the riverbank communities depend for their life on the river. (Suara Surabaya, 27 July 2008)

There is a myth being projected here: that these people are of the water and the river itself and to separate them from it would destroy a deeply embedded cultural link (even though most are urban and originally from the countryside). While the initial importation of the festival may have been strategic (akin to manipulation in the Habermasian typology), it would seem subsequently to have become a community held illusion (distorted communication).

Such grassroots display of the unity of community and water is to stand against the official projection of Surabaya Waterfront City, "green corridor", and the next Singapore.


For the most part, the goal of research is to get from a good question to a better question. Such is the present case. There are three questions that emerge from this project.

First, there is a question of authenticity. Surabaya seeks its place in the wider realm of cities globally; it is attempting this by modelling itself on other, seemingly arbitrarily chosen cities, though Singapore is the principal object of envy such that the Kali Wonokromo would be made to dress itself in the clothes of the Singapore River. This ignores the reality that cities compete not by being the same, but by being different. The urban design task, accordingly, must be seen as building on that which defines Surabaya as different and "special". Whatever else defines Surabaya, the juxtaposition of kampung and riverfront is certainly crucial. So, rather than removing the kampung (the city's identity), how is that juxtaposition to be enhanced in planning and design? It is almost a truism to say that such enhancement will be done with the community rather than against it.

Second is the question of social structure, or perhaps of the nature of Indonesian democracy. The role of the NGOs has been especially significant in this saga. They have the immense advantage of linkages beyond the local, for example PRODEM brought strength to the struggle when it was able to look further afield, specifically to the less benign political environment of Jakarta, and UPLINK turned to practices in similar situations in Thailand. However, while the NGOs worked to supplant the kelurahan/RW/RT structure of governance with a grassroots-up system of self-governance, they did so in part by paralleling that structure and in part by grafting on to it. Significantly, the practices of the paguyuban system built on preexisting, traditional practices of self-help and self-management.

The question emerging here therefore relates to Indonesia's path to democratization. The President and legislature are directly elected while governors and mayors are moving away from direct appointment towards election. In contrast, the RT and RW leaders emerge from an always potentially consensual process that is close to Habermas' ideal of communicative action. The lurah and the camat, in contrast, are still appointed from above. In the case reported here, the "block" in the system of communication and negotiation was clearly at the lurah level. As such, how is Indonesian democracy to evolve? In the direction of direct election, where lurah and camat are elected, or towards a more Indonesian, and coincidentally more Habermasian, practice? The innovating strength of the paguyuban system may reside in its potential to transform the lurah and camat system: both lurah and camat may continue as salaried officers of the city but with their authority based in local endorsement.

The third question returns the argument to the point where this paper began, in the ideas of Jiirgen Habermas. Although the idea of dramaturgical action relates to individual behaviour, where a participant in a communicative process projects an image of him/ herself- almost a caricature--in order to convey a purposive impression, it seems reasonable to assert the usefulness of that idea in drawing attention to the way in which a community or an institution will similarly project an image of itself in order to achieve some predetermined end. The more interesting issue relates to the distinction between manipulation (lies) and distorted communication (ideology, self-delusion). Does this distinction hold in the real world?

In the case of the Surabaya government and its Surabaya Vision Plan, it would indeed seem that an ideology lies behind the exercise--Surabaya, once Indonesia's major metropolis, may see itself as a city whose greatness is now hidden from world view but which can yet take its rightful place alongside other great waterfront cities. It is a respectable goal. When, however, does ideology become strategic manipulation--we have "the truth" and those who oppose us are deluded at best, self-serving at worst. Therefore, demolish the kampung. For their part, the kampung communities can certainly be seen as self-serving; they want to stay where they are and will dress-up their kampung to represent what is indeed a lie--that they are respectable, non-polluting citizens. At what point, however, does the manipulation become ideology? At what point does the theatre of caring for the river became a real pride in their achievements so that they do, indeed, become a different community?

It is possible that Habermas's theory is really to be seen as one that addresses change in human behaviour--in both directions.

DOI: 10.1355/sj25-2c


Dick, Howard W. Surabaya City of Work: A Socioeconomic History, 1900-2000. Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2003.

EDAW. Surabaya Vision Plan 2005-2025. Surabaya: Surabaya Planning Board, 2005.

Faber, G.H. yon. Oud Soerabaia: De geschiedenis van Indie's eerste koopstad van de oudste tijden tot de instelling van den Gemeenteraad. Surabaya: Gemeente Soerabaia, 1931.

Guinness, Patrick. Kampung, Islam and State in Urban Java. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2009.

Habermas, Jurgen. Communication and the Evolution of Society. London: Heinemann Educational, 1979.

---. The Theory of Communicative Action, volume 1. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984.

--. "Truth and Society: The Discursive Redemption of Factual Claims to Validity". In Theorizing Communication: Reading across Traditions, edited by Robert T. Craig and Heidi L. Muller. Los Angeles: Sage, 2007, pp. 447-56.

Idawati, Dyah Erti. Distorted Communication in the Struggle of Squatter Settlements along the Surabaya Riverbank. PhD dissertation, Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, 2009.

Jasa Tirta. "Penataan Kembali Bantaran Sungai Kali Wonokromo", 2002 < jasa_tirta/news.html> (accessed 7 September 2005).

Jellinek, Lea. The Wheel of Fortune: The History of a Poor Community in Jakarta. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1991.

Koentjaraningrat, Raden Mas. Javanese Culture. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Muchsin, M.B. Dampak Implementasi Kebijakan Penertiban Bantaran Stren Kali Surabaya dan Wanokromo. PhD dissertation, Administration Department, Brawijaya University, Malang, 2006.

Notoatmodjo, Modestus Widojoko. Gotong Royong in Indonesian Administration: A Concept of Human Relations. PhD dissertation, Indiana University. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1962.

Santosa, Happy. "Environmental Management in Surabaya with Reference to National Agenda 21 and the Social Safety Net Programme". Environment and Urbanization 12 (2000): 175-84.

Silas, Johan. Kampung Surabaya Menuju Metropolitan. Snrabaya: Yayasan Keluarga Bhakti Surabaya dan Surabaya Post, 1996.

--. Studi Resettlement Permukiman Marjinal di Stren Kali Surabaya. Surabaya: Jurusan Arsitektur FTSP ITS, 2002.

Winayanti, Lana. Community Struggles for Land in Jakarta. PhD dissertation, Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, 2005.


(1.) Ethnographic fieldwork on which this study is based is reported in extensive detail in the PhD dissertation of Dyah Erti Idawati, completed in the University of Melbourne (Idawati, 2009).

(2.) Demographic data from JERIT on Kampung Bratang are cited in Muchsin (2006).

Ross King is Professorial Fellow at the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, Australia. Dyals Erti Idawati received her doctorate from the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, Australia.
COPYRIGHT 2010 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:King, Ross; Idawati, Dyah Erti
Publication:SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9INDO
Date:Oct 1, 2010
Previous Article:Transnational, translocal, transcultural: some remarks on the relations between Hindu-Balinese and ethnic Chinese in Bali.
Next Article:Anti-colonialism in Christian churches: a case study of political discourse in the South Indian Methodist Church in Colonial Malaya, 1890s-1930s.

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