Accepted Paper:

Inclusion of difference in the case of Betawi ethnicity: Indigenous Batavian population and its tolerance towards "otherness within" in contemporary Jakarta  


Shohei Nakamura (Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation examines self-representations of Betawi people. The case illustrates the potential for ethnicity as rhetoric of difference, where it can be utilized for the maintenance and negotiation of different senses of belonging and thus for the prevention of exclusionism.

Paper long abstract:

There has been a presupposition in the explanation of ethnicity as sub-groups of a nation-state that there exist persistent, if not fixed, boundaries between these groups. A number of scholars have postulated that the modern nation-state imposes a homogeneous notion of groups that people eventually accept, resulting in rigid social demarcation within the population.

The case of Betawi ethnicity in Jakarta, generally known as the "Batavian Indigenous" who emerged as a creole in the colonial setting, illustrates a distinct contradiction to such conventional wisdom. Betawi people basically accepted the definition of ethnicity which has long been promoted and imposed by colonial authority as well as by authoritarian rule, yet they emphasize the similarity rather than the difference between cultural features of each sub-group and those of the "Betawi culture" officially defined by the government, so that people of different group-consciousness could tolerate each other within one broader category.

The presenter attempts to investigate the origin of this tolerance by tracing back the group's history, as well as to demonstrate how historically constructed ideas and symbols are utilized for the maintenance and negotiation of diversity in the current setting. The case of Betawi ethnicity instantiates a paradoxical consequence: universalistic rhetoric of difference that the state has constructed along with the flat-faced demarcation of geographical units in turn become the principle for partial deauthorization of supposedly rigid boundaries and incessant inclusion of different senses of belonging.

Panel P016
Reconsidering the future of urban space: social and economic divisions in the public domain (Commission of Urban Anthropology and Commission on the Anthropology of Women)