Accepted Paper:

When community kills: the immorality of 'participation' in an urban slum  


Robbie Peters (University of Sydney)

Paper short abstract:

This paper tells of how neighbours in an urban slum allowed a baby to die of neglect because its grandfather, and sole carer, did not deserve their help due to him not 'participating' in the community. The paper highlights how such a moral good as participation can have such immoral consequences.

Paper long abstract:

In February 2014, in a large inner city slum of Indonesia's second largest city, Surabaya, neighbours stood-by as the impoverished grandfather and sole carer of a 6 month old girl fed her only sweetened water. Despite being fully aware that the child's life was in jeopardy and despite the exhortations of visitors to the slum that the community should act, the neighbourhood leader, reflecting a general community view, reasoned that the grandfather did not deserve help. He had not 'participated' in the community, failing to assist in neighbourhood working bees and failing to register the child's birth or have her weighed on family planning day. The child died of neglect some weeks later amidst a community that prides itself on communal self-help, inclusiveness and participation. Although participation has been a foundation stone of the developmentalist state in Indonesia, and although it has been central to Western development discourses of poverty alleviation applied in the country, it worked here to exclude and kill rather than include and save. This paper interrogates this death to highlight how such a moral and taken for granted good as participation can have such immoral consequences.

Panel Imm01
Individuality, incivility, immorality