Conference ‘Adat law 100 years on: towards a new interpretation?’ 
22-24 May 2017
National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

This international conference, held in Leiden from 22 to 24 May 2017, focused on adat law in Indonesia a century after the Adat Law Foundation (Adatrechtstichting) was set up in Leiden by the famous professors Van Vollenhoven and Snouck Hurgronje. In the decades that followed the Adat Law Foundation published dozens of studies on adat law based on one of the largest research projects ever conducted from the Law Faculty of Leiden University.

On 22 May more than a hundred researchers, professionals, students and other interested people attended the Seminar that opened the Conference. Among them were many Indonesian academics who felt as if making their ‘pilgrimage to the sacred source of adat law’ in Leiden. Although this comment refers to the long history of adat studies in Leiden, the conference actually was mostly about adat in Indonesia today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow. Ambassador Puja of the Republic of Indonesia stressed in his opening speech how adat is still very important in identity matters: “Until the end of my life I will always have my adat and it cannot be separated from who I am.” He added that one of the most serious reprimands the elders in his home island Bali can give is by saying “tidak tahu adat,” which is synonymous to having no self-respect nor respect for one’s ancestors. Ambassador Puja stated that he believes adat will remain relevant for centuries to come.

In national Indonesian policy there has been a move towards recognition of land rights of adat communities, but that policy is not without challenges. Development projects put land under pressure, due to national policy priorities for producing food and energy. Land issues across Indonesia have resulted in thousands of conflicts and millions of hectares of disputed lands. These conflicts involve forest areas, mining, plantation, and infrastructure development priorities. Although land underpins economic development for Indonesia, in December 2016, for the first time in Indonesian history, the national government recognized the land rights of nine adat communities from various parts of the country. Additionally, 12.7 million hectares of state forest are scheduled for social forestry. But how will it work out in practice?

In the second and third day of the conference 45 participants attended the closed workshop in which researchers from Indonesia, the Netherlands, The United States, Malaysia, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Italy, and Australia presented their research. The conference themes included adat in relation to religion, land, representation, local politics, women, and family- and inheritance law. The last panel critically discussed adat teaching and how its content and style can be updated. The panels illustrated that analyzing the current use and meaning of adat requires an approach that also takes account of social, economic and political contexts. In the full report that you can find here there is a detailed overview of the keynotes and the  topics and findings of the panel sessions. The report ends with conclusions and follow up suggestions, among which 3 special issues of academic journals and the next Conference in Indonesia.

This conference was organized by The Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society (VVI) and KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies. We thank the following institutions for their financial contributions:  the Adatrechtfonds, Vereniging KITLV, Leiden University Fund (LUF), Asian Modernities and Traditions of Leiden University (AMT) and the Van Vollenhoven Institute (VVI). We also thank all presenters who have made this conference a success.

Program day 1 | 22 May
Venue: Main room, Museum Volkenkunde
Admission: free (registration necessary)
Chair: Jan Michiel Otto

*Titles of keynote lecture are working titles*

13:30 – 13:40 Welcome by prof. Jan Michiel Otto (Director of Van Vollenhoven Institute)
13:40 – 13:45 Opening speech by H.E. I Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja (Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia) 
13:45 – 13:50 Welcoming words by the Dean of the Leiden Law School
13:50 – 14:05 Adriaan Bedner (Van Vollenhoven Institute/KITLV) – The position of adat law in Indonesian land law: where are we heading to?
Adat law has continued to be a highly topical and socially relevant theme in present day Indonesia. It still provides the legal basis for the state’s recognition of indigenous communities and their land rights. However, such use of adat law is contested. Some argue that it offers the only pathway to justice for many marginalized groups, whereas others question the exclusive and often hierarchical nature of adat communities in a multi-cultural society. This has led to sometimes bitter debates between proponents and opponents of a continued role for adat. Adriaan Bedner will present how this year’s new developments in Indonesian legislation will influence the authority of indigenous people over their communal land using the opportunities provided by the 2014 Village Law and a new Agrarian Law.
14:05 – 14:15 Questions
14:15 – 14:30 David Henley (Leiden Institute for Area Studies) – ‘The revival of tradition in Indonesian politics ten years on: reconsidering the role of adat’
A decade ago David Henley and Jamie Davidson edited a widely cited book in which the ‘adat revivalism’ of the early reformasi era was described and analysed. Here and in related publications they noted how Indonesia’s traditionalist and collectivist ideological tradition, together with the injustices of the Suharto era, had combined after 1998 with political uncertainty, administrative decentralization and international support to create a wave of ‘adat politics’ across Indonesia, with diverse communities and interest groups staking claims to land and other resources on the basis of adat and adat law. Now David Henley looks back at selected developments since that time to ask whether or not the adat revival has proved enduring and successful, and what problems it has resolved and created, and why.
14:30 –14:45 Keebet von Benda-Beckmann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Germany) – Anachronism, Agency, and the Contextualization of Adat:  The value of Van Vollenhoven’s analyses in light of current struggles over resources.
This contribution offers a counter-narrative to Davidson and Henley’s critical statements on adat. Von Benda-Beckmann argues that the critique of colonial scholarship is misconceived in important ways, which hampers a proper understanding of the current revitalization of adat in Indonesia. Firstly, it has been largely based on a legalistic conception of ‘law’ and ‘customary law’. Secondly, the critique tends to make selective generalizations from interpretations of adat in specific contexts, that is, political rhetoric, administrative and court decisions, and legal debates on the character and status of adat and adat law. It does not sufficiently consider what such interpretations might mean beyond these specific contexts. Critics have underrated the agency of local people and their intellectual and political leaders and overrated the actual significance of colonial legal constructions of adat or adat law on the legal life of the population. In the third place, the major points of critique of the Adat Law School’s descriptions of adat law and its significance in legal politics and administration are largely anachronistic. Finally, critics have chosen the wrong target for their deconstructions. The paper will consider how Van Vollenhoven/s analytical contributions might be of relevance in current debates and struggles over resources in Indonesia.
14:45– 15:00 Questions and discussion
15:00 – 15:40 Coffee break
15:45 – 16:00 Sandra Moniaga National Commission on Human Rights in Indonesia (Komnas HAM)  – Adat communities and human rights: Is there any progress?

The National Commission on Human Rights in Indonesia (Komnas HAM) conducted a national inquiry to gather information from indigenous communities, government institutions and companies and other relevant parties in an effort to map out indicated human rights violations and possible solutions for the country’s rampant customary land disputes. This extensive study has found that the absence of formal recognition by the State with regard to indigenous communities and their customary lands remains the root cause of customary land disputes, a problem that has seen a surge over the past few decades. The absence of state recognition counts among the five root causes of human rights violations against indigenous communities throughout the archipelago. Other root causes behind indigenous rights violations include a state development agenda that is strongly biased toward economic growth and the dismissal of indigenous communities’ rights as a mere issue of legality and administration. Sandra Moniaga will highlight main findings from the study that have been published in four books  in 2016 and the recent development of its recommendations.

16:00 – 16:15 Lily Hoo (World Bank Jakarta) – Indigenous people and social development in Indonesia

The World Bank Indonesia is currently considering effective approaches to support indigenous groups in current and future programs, increasing likelihood of their participation and improved human development outcomes. In the context of Indonesia’s development priorities, and the country’s global climate change commitments and national policy responses, there can be expected to be further effort and opportunity to strengthen government and community institutions in ways that support climate change resilient communities, particularly through sustainable natural resource management and strengthened indigenous community livelihoods.  The Village Law and its implementation experience over the past 3 years indicate a need for greater understanding of indigenous peoples’ institutions, participation and challenges. Also, poverty levels in forest areas are estimated to double the national average, and many of the people living in these areas are indigenous peoples. This requires a more targeted approach to improve well-being and reduce inequality of indigenous groups.  Furthermore, an increased drive and emphasis on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples affected by development investments indicates a need for development institutions and partners to better understand the context and key issues concerning indigenous peoples.

16:15 – 16:30 Jacqueline Vel (Van Vollenhoven Institute/KITLV) with Stepanus Makambombu (Stimulant Insititute, Waingapu)– Adat law in Sumba: social protection, debts and poverty
This key note discusses different ways in which adat in Sumba has been framed, explaining how positive and negative perceptions of adat co-exist. National adat law debates often concentrate on the rights of indigenous peoples to  their land in defense against outside intrusion. Whereas the corresponding national discourse in some cases might be far separated from the daily activities of people on the ground, in Sumba adat is part of daily and mostly for internal use.  In  recent  field research  on household vulnerability and food insecurity,  village respondents reported that adat obligations have been a major source of household crisis, besides drought periods. Although the villagers had problems feeding their families, they contributed food, livestock and ceremonial goods worth a lot of money whenever there was a funeral or a wedding within their community. This study raises questions about poor people’s interests and motivations to obey the adat rules. What would be the cost if they would escape from the system?  What can we learn from this case in Sumba about the practical every day consequences of adat law? The Sumba study draws the attention to the internal consequences of  policies for strengthening indigenous communities. How will support for adat communities  affect social inclusion and access to justice for the poor?
16:30 – 17:00 Questions and discussion
17:00 – 18:00 Closing drinks at the Museum bar
Program day 2 | 23 May | Closed session
Panel sessions only for selected participants
Location: Paviljoen, Museum Volkenkunde
9:00 – 11:00 Panel 1: Adat law and religion
  Since researchers began to systematically study adat law in the late 19th century, the relationship between adat law and religion has been a focal point of attention. In the early days of adat law studies, adat law and religious law were perceived as distinct legal domains. In the context of contemporary Indonesia – a modern nation-state deeply embedded in a globalized world – studying adat law and religion is now perhaps even more in place. Rather than viewing adat law and religious law as separate legal orders, an increasing body of literature approaches the two as intertwined or as complementary to one another. Yet, religious norms and values have steadily become more present in both the public and private sphere in Indonesia during the last few decades. This panel will address the complex relationship between adat law and religion. It will deal with the following questions: In which circumstances have adat law and religious law been mutually supportive, and to the benefit of whom? Is the gap between adat law and religious law increasing, so as that they are becoming contesting systems? If so, why?
Chair: Adriaan Bedner
 9:15 1) Arskal Salim (Professor of Islamic Law and Politics at Hidayatullah State Islamice University Jakarta) – Adat and Islmaic Qanun in contemporary Aceh: Coexistence or Contestation?
 9:30 2) Bowo Sugiarto (PhD Candidate at Department of culture studies, Tilburg University) -The Nexus Between Adat, Religion and Politics: The Sanctification of Balinese Hindus’ Sacred Places and Areas
 9:45 3) Simona Sienkiwicz (PhD candidate in the Institute of Middle and Far East Studies in Jagiellonian University, Cracow) – Between adat and religion – dualistic systems or homogenous structure? A study from Maluku, Eastern Indonesia
 10:00 4) Syaifudin Zuhri (PhD Candidate at Humboldt Universität, Berlin) – Modernisation of Islamic Adat Law in Contemporary Bali, Indonesia
 10:15 5) Erica Larson (PhD Candidate at the Department of Anthropology Boston University) – Calling on Adat for Protection of the (Christian) Minahasan Homeland
10:30 – 11:00 Discussion
11:00 – 11:15 Coffee/tea break
11:15 – 13:15 Panel 2: Adat communities and land dispossession
Since Indonesia’s democratic turn, the resurgence of adat law in the public, political and legal discourse has primarily manifested itself in the form of claims to land rights. Responding to the injustices of the dispossessive practices of the state and plantation companies, the legitimacy of claiming adat community rights has grown significantly in the last several decades. The most recent landmark development was the formal recognition of a number of adat communities and their land rights, personally granted by Indonesian president Joko Widodo. While this development was hailed as an important momentum for the welfare of rural communities, many questions remain about the further implications of such recognition. One concern is that the focus on the culturally distinct adat communities might exclude other groups who do not qualify as such. This panel focuses on the different dimensions of land disputes and looks at the outcomes of processes in which the issue of adat communities features prominently. It moreover aims to explore the implications of the formal recognition of adat land rights.

The most important question is: Does adat law and formal recognition of adat rights provide protection and an antidote to dispossession in the modern era?

Chair: Willem van der Muur
 11:30 1) Kathryn Robinson (Australian National University) – Can formalization of adat law communities protect rights? The case of the orang asli Sorowako and the Dongi
 11:45 2) Riwanto Triosudarmo (Researcher at LIPI) – The insurgence of Adat and its impediment to Indonesia as a common project
 12:00 3) Ahmad Dhiaulhaq (PhD Candidate at Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University) – Adat and Non-adat Claims in Industrial Plantation Conflicts: Do They Lead to Different Outcomes?
 12:15 4) Sri Hajati (Faculty of Law, Airlangga University) – Exchange of land under adat law as one of the models of sustaining the existence of land under adat law
12:30 – 13:15 Discussion
13:15 – 14:00 Lunch break
14:00 – 16:00 Panel 3: Adat communities and representation: adat engineering and framing
In recent years a true ‘adat community industry’ has emerged in Indonesia. Throughout the country there are countless local and regional organizations that are involved in the advocacy of the rights of adat communities. They have initiated advocacy campaigns, participatory mapping activities and lawmaking projects all geared towards the protection of adat communities. In some instances external organizations have played an active role in disputes by helping communities to frame their claims in terms of adat rights. In Jakarta, several civil organizations operate as mediators between high-level government departments and adat communities. All of these developments pose serious questions with regard to representation. This panel delves into these questions and seeks to address the major challenges of the representation of adat communities. How do NGOs approach adat communities and how do they deal with the different interests of the community members? Where are the voices of the community in the drafting of adat legislation? Why can adat claims actually lead to internal conflicts within communities?
Chair: Sandra Moniaga
 14:15 1) Willem van der Muur (PhD candidate at Van Vollenhoven Institute, Leiden University) Adat community advocacy and the legislation hype: Rural justice or strengthening state control?
 14:30 2) Micah Fisher (PhD candidate in the Geography Department at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa) – Through the Looking Glass of the Adat Movement: A Land and Livelihoods Perspective from Kajang
 14:45 3) Laure d’Hondt (PhD candidate at Van Vollenhoven Institute, Leiden University) – Transforming adat identity and how adat-based claims can trigger conflict within communities
 15:00 4) Yance Arizona (PhD candidate at Van Vollenhoven Institute, Leiden University) – Being Masyarakat Adat, Becoming Citizens: The articulation of indigenous identity of the To Marena in Central Sulawesi
 15:15 5) Muki Wicaksono (Junior researcher at Epistema Institute) – Beyond the Legal Text Recognition of Adat Forests in Kerinci District
15:30 – 16:00 Discussion
16:00 – 16:15 Coffee break
16:15 – 18:15 Panel 4: Adat institutions and local politics
Chair: Riwanto Tirtosudarmo
 16:30 1) Tody Samitha (lecturer of Adat Law at the Faculty of Law of Universitas Gadjah Mada) – 2 years of the Village Act: Are there any odds remaining for the establishment of ‘Adat village’?
 16:45 2) Elizabeth Lubis (junior Researcher JSSP) – The roles of the Sumbawa Sultanate, local government and local adat institutions under a regional regulation
 17:00 3) Veronika Kusumaryati (PhD candidate at the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University) – Adat Institutionalization and the Quest for Independence in West Papua
 17:15 4) Longgina Novadona Bayo (Lecturer and Researcher at Department of Politics and Government, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Gadjah Mada University) – Adat and Local Regimes in Indonesia: A Case Study of the Shifting Role of Adat in Three Regions’ Democratic Development
 17:30 5) Nur Widiyanto (PhD candidate Inter-Religious and cultural Studies, Gadjah Mada University) Placing identity on the market: The Role of Cultural Tourism on Indigenous Group’s Social Movement and Adat Law Establishment in West Java, Indonesia
17:45 Discussion
Program day 3 | 24 May | Closed session
Panel sessions only for selected participants
Location: Paviljoen, Museum Volkenkunde
9:00 – 11:00 Panel 5: Adat law, women rights and family (inheritance) law
  How alive is the living law among Indonesia’s highly diverse ethnic and cultural groups in the vast amount of regions in the archipelago? What is the current role of adat law in day-to-day situations for Indonesian families living the countryside? How are customary rules regarding private civil matters incorporated into Indonesia’s formal legal system? How does the judiciary approach highly controversial customary issues such as child marriage? This panel will address these urging questions by looking into some of the most important domains of adat law in the field of civil matters: family law and inheritance law. In this panel we will moreover take a closer look at adat law and the rights of women. The position of women is an issue that has long been understudied by adat law researchers, perhaps with the sole exception of studies from the Minangkabau region. 
Chair: Herlambang Wiratraman
 9:15 1) Sulisyowati Irianto (Professor of Anthropology at University of Indonesia) – Inheritance Adat Law Dispute and Gender Justice in Legal Pluralism Perspective
 9:30 2) Mina Elfira (Associate Professor at Faculty of Humanities, Universitas Indonesia) – Minangisation of the practice of Islamic and Indonesia laws in Contemporary Minangkabau women’s daily lives
 9:45 3) Sita van Bemmelen & Mies Grijns (PhD candidate at Van Vollenhoven Institute, Leiden University) – Child marriage contested in colonial Indonesia: between adat, religion and the state
 10:00 4) Arfianyash (PhD candidate at Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), Leiden University)- Adat, State Sharia, and public morality in the Gayo Community
10:15  5) Ida Ayu Grhamtika Saitya (junior Researcher at Kompas Daily) -The Shifting of Women Status in Law of Balinese Adat Heritance
10:30 – 11:00 Discussion
11:00 – 11:15 Coffee break
11:15 – 13:15 Panel 6: Adat law in courts and legal education 
For decades the approach towards adat law in legal education in Indonesia has hardly changed. Until this day, students are obliged to read the work of colonial scholars such as Van Vollenhoven and Ter Haar, while rarely having to deal with the issues of adat law in an increasingly complex modern world. As a result, present day legislators, judges and law enforcers are equipped with a highly outdated set of legal concepts of adat law that is essentially the same as a century ago. This panel looks at the present day legitimacy of adat law, by focusing on a) the approach towards adat law in law schools and b) the application of adat law by courts. This panel will moreover look at traditional courts and how these are integrated into the formal judicial system. Questions are: How are the current complexities of adat law in Indonesia addressed in legal training? How do courts apply adat law in their decision-making and what is their attitude towards informal adat courts?
Chair: Sulistyowati Irianto
 11:30 1) Herlambang Wiratraman (Executive Director of Center of Human Rights Law Studies, Faculty of Law, Airlangga)- Adat Courts in Indonesia’s Judicial System: A Constitutional Pluralism Analysis
 11:45 2) Budi Suharyanto (researcher at Supreme Court/Mahkamah Agung RI) – Problems of adat absorption by the court and the effect for national criminal law reform
 12:00 3) Joeni Arianto Kuraniawan (PhD Student at University Pisa) – The Role of Adat Law in the Tenurial Conflict Involving Adat Communities in Indonesia. A Lesson from the Conflict between the Sedulur Sikep Community and the Cement Industries in Central Java
 12:15 4) Rikardo Simarmata  (Lecturer at Faculty of law, University of Gadjah Mada) –The current development of scientific study of adat law wand its ability to adequately explain reality
 12:30 5) Viktor Immanuel (Faculty of Law, Darma Cendika Catholic University) – Changing Adat Inheritance Law
12:45 – 13:15 Discussion
13:15 – 14:00 Lunch
14:15 Final reflection, discussion and follow up
15:15 End of conference

Adriaan Bedner is associate professor at the Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society (Leiden Law School, Leiden University) and KITLV professor  of Law and Society in Indonesia. Adriaan Bedner’s research has a particular focus on access to justice, dispute resolution and the judiciary. He has published on a wide range of subjects including administrative courts and environmental litigation, human rights promotion in marriage law regimes and Indonesian legal education. In addition, he has done work of a more theoretical and comparative nature on rule of law and access to justice. At present he is also in charge of the research part of a joint project between the Dutch and the Indonesian ombudsman, as well as the research component of a co-operation project between the Indonesian and the Dutch Supreme Court.

David Henley is Professor of Contemporary Indonesia Studies at Leiden University. His fields of interest cover the politics, history and geography of Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia. Within Indonesia his regional focus is on the island of Sulawesi. He has published on nationalism and regionalism, on environmental, demographic and agricultural history, on colonial expansion, on political institutions and ideology, and on economic development and finance.

Keebet von Benda-Beckmann is an associate of the Department of Law & Anthropology at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale, Germany, and was formerly head of the ‘Project Group Legal Pluralism’ (2000-2012) at the same institute. Since 2003 she has been an Honorary Professor of Legal Anthropology at the University of Leipzig and since 2004 Honorary Professor of Legal Pluralism at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. She has carried out research in West Sumatra and on the Moluccan Island of Ambon (both in Indonesia) and among Moluccan women in the Netherlands. She has published extensively on dispute resolution, social security in developing countries, property and water rights, and decentralization, and on theoretical issues in the anthropology of law. Together with Franz von Benda-Beckmann and Melanie Wiber she co-edited Changing properties of property (Berghahn, 2006); with Franz von Benda-Beckmann and Anne Griffiths she co-edited Spatialising Law (Ashgate, 2009); with Franz von Benda-Beckmann and Julia Eckert, Rules of Law and Laws of Ruling: On the Governance of Law (Ashgate, 2009).  She co-authored with Franz von Benda-Beckmann Political and Legal Transformations of an Indonesian Polity (Cambridge, 2013).

Sandra Moniaga is Commissioner of the National Commission on Human Rights of the Republic of Indonesia (Komnas HAM – RI). Sandra Moniaga has used her training in law to advocate for environmental and indigenous rights for over 25 years. Since receiving her law degree from Parahyangan Catholic University, Indonesia in 1986, she has co-developed and led several local and national NGOs (WALHI, LBBT Pontianak, ELSAM, ICEL, PtPPMA Papua, HuMa, Epistema Institute) focusing on rights-based and poor-oriented policy advocacy, legal resource development, democratization of law reform, and knowledge management. In 2004, Sandra began a PhD in Law at the VVI, University of Leiden, Netherlands. Her research inquires whether conflicts between adat communities and the state can be legally and socially resolved. Her case studies include three adat communities in Cibeber sub-district of Lebak District in Banten Province. In November 2012 Sandra was selected by the Parliament as a Commissioner of the National Commission on Human Rights of the Republic of Indonesia (Komnas HAM – RI) for a five-year term. Sandra led the first Komnas HAM’s National Inquiry with focus on “The Rights of indigenous Communities in Forest Zones in Indonesia” in collaboration with several state institutions and civil society organizations which conducted from 2014 until 2015.

Lily Hoo is a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist with the World Bank Social Development Unit in Indonesia. She holds Master of Arts degree from School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), the Johns Hopkins University, and Master of Business Administration from the National University of Singapore. She leads the Analytic Team of the World Bank Indonesia Social Development Unit responsible for managing analytic works related to Village Law, Service Delivery and other social development issues in Indonesia. She recently led an internal World Bank assessment on “indigenous people and local development in Indonesia”.

Jacqueline Vel is senior researcher at KITLV and the Van Vollenhoven Institute at the  University of Leiden, specializing in local governance in Indonesia. She lived in Sumba as development worker for six years in the 1980s and wrote her PhD dissertation “The Uma Economy” on the rules and logics of the local rural economy in Sumba (1994). The updated Indonesian translation was published in 2010. Adat has been a continuing theme in her work for successive research programmes on Indonesian land law and local politics. She published the book “Uma Politics” in 2008. With her local researcher Stepanus Makambombu she collaborated in the VVI Access to justice program and published about the role of adat in land disputes. Since 2015 Vel and Makambombu do the Sumba case study for the Australian research program: ‘Household Vulnerability and the Politics of Social Protection in Indonesia: Towards an Integrated Approach’.

Please register if you wish to attend the conference:
Organising Committee

Willem van der Muur (VVI)

Jacqueline Vel (KITLV/VVI)

Adriaan Bedner (KITLV/VVI)

Vanessa Görner (conference assistant)

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