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Seminar ‘Adat, Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, and local governance syncretized through ritual and sea cucumbers in an eastern Indonesian village’

26/03/2015 @ 15:30 - 17:00

This talk addresses the synergies between adat, village governance, and world religions in an eastern Indonesian village. In this situation, adat beliefs stabilize rifts between competing world religion ideologies. Adat related beliefs are more of a presence than a choice. In the Aru Islands of Eastern Indonesia, practices categorized as adat play critical roles in structuring social relations. In the Batuley villages of Aru, adat rules are applied in domains such as adultery, theft, and management of certain communal resources. Transgression of these rules invites punishment from nonhuman forces, such as tiger sharks. Adat regulated activities also contribute to the expanding presence and visibility of three world religions in Batuley villages.

This talk analyses a special village-wide adat ceremony and adat regulated sea cucumber harvest held by one village in 2014. The event was held in order to meet the pressing financial needs of one of the three active world religion communities in the village. However this adat-related event was structured in a way that benefited all three religious communities and provided opportunity for personal financial gain.

In Batuley, adat regulated inter-village relationships were also critical factors in avoiding sectarian religious conflict during the 1999-2002 Moluku wars. Adat beliefs can contribute to violent retributions between clans in Aru. However, analysis of the syncretic and balancing aspects of adat in Batuley is of value, in particular under the current Indonesian governance model that supports cultural diversity and heritage.

Ross Gordon (Ph.D. 2013, University of Alberta, Canada) is a sociocultural anthropologist who is currently researching environmental knowledge systems and languages of Aru Islanders in Eastern Indonesia. At the KITLV, Ross is adding endangered language material from Aru to the DOBES archive; refining relevant fieldwork methods; producing a multilingual environmental encyclopaedia to be distributed to schools and homes in several Aru villages; and writing a journal article on Aru Island social organization.

Photo: Tim Laman/National Geographic

If you wish to attend please register with Yayah Siegers: [email protected]


15:30 - 17:00
Event Category:


KITLV, room 138
Reuvensplaats 2
Leiden, Netherlands
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