From Clients to Citizens? Emerging Citizenship in Democratising Indonesia

From clients to citizens? aims to understand the impact of Indonesia’s democratization process on everyday state-citizen interaction. To what extent is Indonesia’s democratic transition changing the way ordinary Indonesians relate to the state in terms of citizenship? How can we explain both the changes and the continuities?

Citizenship is the basis of all politics. Citizenship struggles are redefining the state all over the global south, also in Southeast Asia. Yet citizenship has been a neglected field of study. The Arab Spring, the Red Shirts of Thailand, and the Indonesian Reformasi movement are all recent moments of citizen struggles for recognition. If a polity consists of a state and its people, then citizenship is about who those people are. Who is a legitimate member of the state and who is not? What rights do members have? Citizenship is above all about rights – having, using, claiming as well as demanding them.

The program’s seven sub-studies aim to capture the changing norms, practices and discursive strategies that citizens adopt vis-à-vis powerholders as they focus on key citizenship struggles in contemporary Indonesia. These range from online anti-corruption protests, farmers’ land rights campaigns, villagers’ demands for public services and healthcare, as well as conservative provincial campaigns to institute Islamic morality and new techniques for dispensing patronage at election time.

This four-year long research project (2012-2016) is a collaboration between KITLV, Universitas Gadja Madah, University of Amsterdam and Leiden University. It is funded by the Dutch KNAW and the Indonesian Ministry of Education.


Citizenship and Historical Practices of Rule (Prof. Dr. Gerry van Klinken)
Shades of Clientelism: A Comparative Study of Indonesia’s Patronage Democracy (Dr. Ward Berenschot)
From Kawula to Village Citizen: Village Leadership and Public Service Delivery in Rural Indonesia (Mr. Prio Sambodho)
Securing Land Rights: Land Conflicts in Democratizing Indonesia (Mr. Willem van der Muur)
Realizing Welfare Rights? The Collectivization of Social Security in Indonesia (Ms. Retna Hanani)
Digital Citizenship and Indonesia’s Anti-corruption Campaign: New Forms of Public Action and Accountability? (Mr. Zamzam Fauzanafi)


Click here to go back to the full list of research projects ongoing at the KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies and in collaboration with other departments and institutions.

Related Reseachers

Henk Schulte Nordholt (project director)
Bambang Purwanto (project director)
Gerry van Klinken (project coordinator and senior researcher)
Ward Berenschot (project coordinator and senior researcher)
Prio Sambodho (junior researcher)
Willem van der Muur (junior researcher)
Retna Hanani (junior researcher)
Zamzam Fauzanafi (junior researcher)

Links and Publications

‘Can clients become citizens? Evaluating the new democracy in Indonesia’, by Prio Sambodho

Jokowi’s National Police Chief debacle’ by Prio Sambodho

Murder in Maumere: Postcolonial Citizenship‘ by Gerry van Klinken

Misdirecting Elections by Ward Berenschot

Freedom of Information? by Widodo Putro and Ward Berenschot

Lampung’s sugar-coated elections by Ward Berenschot and Darmawan Purba