Accepted paper:

The becoming of self through the development of others: creative self-making and urban decentralisation in Indonesia


Tanya Jakimow (Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines moral motivations for engaging in an urban development program in Medan, Indonesia, as a way of revealing people's self-understandings and their perceptions of state-society relations.

Paper long abstract:

Development, with its injunctions to act for and on behalf of other people, is a critical juncture in which moral dispositions are displayed, evoked, and reinforced. This paper examines moral motivations for engaging in development work as a way of revealing people's self-understandings and perceptions of state-society and intra-societal relations. A decentralisation program in Indonesia Program National Pemberdayaan Masyarakat (PNPM—National Program for Community Empowerment) in urban areas has enlisted local residents to become members of the Badan Keswadayaan Masyarakat (BKM - Agency of Community Self-Reliance) that manages and implements local level development programs. Morality is ever-present in people's description of why they became BKM members, as well as their understanding of their role within society. Involvement is often presented as a means through which the self is 'cultivated' according to religious and non-religious mores. Concurrently, practices particular to the PNPM (including a high level of supervision from government employees and demands of documentation and procedural accountability) saturate their descriptions of their work, and significantly, their accounts of self in relation to others. This paper draws upon ethnographic observation and participants' accounts to reveal the understandings of self made possible through the development encounter—as a moral being and an actor for development. How do people's prevailing ethical orientations shape development practice? How does creative self-making occur through and in relation to discourses and practices of 'development'? How does the cultivation of 'self' through development activities influence relations within an urban locality?

panel P06
Reflections on moral sentiments within the anthropology of development