Accepted Paper:

Temporary connections and stable social networks. the case of diasporic Hadhrami Arabs in peripheral Indonesia  


Martin Slama (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

Against the backdrop of a discussion of the more stable networks of diasporic Hadhrami Arabs in peripheral Indonesia this paper explores their contingent and temporary connections transcending kin and ethnicity.

Paper long abstract:

Based on field research in Indonesia - in peripheral Central and North Sulawesi between August 2007 and July 2008 - the paper explores and compares temporary relations and stable social networks of Indonesians of Arab descent. Being part of a diaspora originating from the Hadhramaut (Yemen), these Arab Indonesians can rely on a network of relatively stable social relations based on kinship and ethnicity, due to prevalent endogamy and strict patrilineal reckoning of descent, but also further fostered by their modern religious organisations. Thanks to these networks as well as their trading skills, their diaspora could expand to relatively remote places in eastern Indonesia. This paper is particularly concerned with another side of their diasporic social networking, much less discussed in the literature, namely the obvious fact that diasporas do not only consist of relatively stable networks but also of contingent and temporary connections. These fluid ties can be observed most easily when people are on the move and when relationships regularly transcend kin and ethnicity. Importantly, social networks and contingent relations do not necessarily contradict each other, as vast networks leave enough room for contingency and temporality within. The paper will argue, in the case of diaspora societies such as the Hadhrami Arabs in Indonesia, that the reliability of networks often preconditions temporary relations. Which strategies did the Hadhramis as a minority group develop in the diaspora in order to connect, especially to local society, and manage their manifold relations?

Panel W107
From structure to conjucture: social networks and rhizomatic connnections