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Climate and culture

Changes, lessons, and challenges

Yunita T. Winarto

From generation to generation over the centuries, people in all parts of the world have developed adaptive social-cultural institutions and strategies of natural resource management based on the intimate relationship they had with their environment. At present, recent global warming is threatening people’s lives. Unfortunately, climate change is a natural phenomenon which is neither easy to observe, nor to predict and anticipate accurately. In many places, local people can no longer rely on earlier experiences and existing socio-cultural institutions to adjust to unprecedented changes. We are in urgent need of specific efforts to re-interpret and enrich our knowledge of this natural phenomenon. However, this is not an easy thing to do. People from all kinds of levels and entities in society are simultaneously the cause and the victims of global warming. The problem becomes even more complicated because of various mutually-affecting dimensions like ethics, politics, power, economics, and justice. These are the ultimate challenges scholars of the social sciences and humanities need to address seriously everywhere in the world, including in Indonesia. This article addresses the arguments of what scholars in the social sciences and humanities could and should do in response to climate change. Promoting a new paradigm and ethics in dealing with climate change is urgent and improvements in approaches and research methodologies are necessary. Learning from experiences gained from the way farmers in Java respond to climate change, the author argues that interdisciplinary research across social and natural sciences, and collaborative work with target groups is a promising and significant step (although scholars will have to face many challenges and constraints).

James T. Collins and Herpanus

Almost two hundred years ago, O. van Kessel identified a language group based on a characteristic sound change that yielded -ai in the final position of some words (Van Kessel 1850: 166); Hudson (1970) named this group “Ibanic” after the Iban language widely spoken in Sarawak. Of the numerous members of the Ibanic branch of Malayic, perhaps the Sekujam language is the least known. Although Sujarni et al. (2008: 282-285) provided information about the location and traditions of the Sekujam ethnic group, there is very little information about the language. Based on available colonial and contemporary sources, this essay provides a sketch of this ethnic group, numbering perhaps only 3,000 people, split between two administrative units (residencies). Then, a brief overview of the phonology of Sekujam suggests some of its distinctive characteristics. There follows an overview of the sociolinguistic setting of the Sekujam-speaking communities in the Sekadau residency reflecting the status and functions of Sekujam in the language ecology of this multilingual area. Of interest perhaps is the praxis of split dialogic bilingualism documented in some of the area’s villages and the role of Sekujam in traditional rituals of at least one other ethnic group. Much work remains in the face of rapid social, demographic and economic change.

Jintana T. Barton

This research explores the influence of Chinese music as it is reflected in cultural activities in China and Thailand. In China, music has been used since long before the time of Confucius (551-479 BC) as a learning tool, and the Chinese who migrated into Southeast Asia and ultimately Thailand brought their music with them. In Thai society, Chinese music has been used in traditional ways. Although the music remains closer to what was brought with the immigrants, it has been adopted into Thai society in ways that go far beyond the original Chinese use. This research found that some Chinese musical activities have become ingrained into Thai culture and society such as Lion Dance group performances in the processions for the ceremonial candle (Tian Phansa), the Khan Mak procession, and the Songkran Festival procession. The Lion Dance group also has a photo of a famous Thai monk on the front of a big drum. We also found that the khim is the most popular Chinese musical instrument among Thai people.

Epistemological Borders and Crossings in the War against ISIS in the Philippines

The Impact of ‘Ungrievable Lives’ on National Political Discourse

Eduardo T. Gonzalez


Following the approach of Judith Butler in Frames of war: When is life grievable? and similar theoretical perspectives, the paper examines how the war against ISIS in Southern Philippines discursively represents the “other” – the victims of war – as dispensable “collateral damage”. There is no disputing that the siege of Marawi City by an ISIS- inspired group has taken a terrible toll on human life and has exposed the increasing vulnerability of the country to terrorism. Yet, the relation between the state and the displaced victims that emerged, brought forth in and through media reporting and political commentaries, constitutes an epistemological border that casts the military (as the state’s instrument) as the uncontested heroic entity, yet at the same time keeps the dislocated inhabitants – mostly Muslim minorities – out of sight, inaccessible, and in due course ungrievable. Media texts and commentaries, privileging state perspectives and sources, implicitly establish what counts as “grievable” lives. A privileged hegemonic perspective has kept the war victims de-subjectified, rendering their suffering and the grave humanitarian conditions on the ground unproblematic. The paper then looks into how a “desensitized” political discourse is structured by this new cognitive orientation. While some Marawi voices still surface, the focus is on gaining direct public empathy and identification toward a particular side and engendering moral indifference toward the victims. Lastly, the paper looks at epistemological crossings in the form of alternative (and potentially disruptive) discourses that have emerged, despite the narrowed liminal space. It argues that war victims, in a context of new meanings, retain some form of agency that might engender change, and could reemerge as recognizable voices who can participate as full partners in the collective restoration of Marawi and the Muslim community.

Multamia R.M.T. Lauder and Allan F. Lauder

The present paper reflects on Indonesia’s status as an archipelagic state and a maritime nation from a historical perspective. It explores the background of a multi-year research project into Indonesia’s maritime past currently being undertaken at the Humanities Faculty of Universitas Indonesia. The multidisciplinary research uses toponymy, epigraphy, philology, and linguistic lines of analysis in examining old inscriptions and manuscripts and also includes site visits to a number of old port cities across the archipelago. We present here some of the core concepts behind the research such as the importance of the ancient port cities in a network of maritime trade and diplomacy, and link them to some contemporary issues such as the Archipelagic Outlook. This is based on a concept of territorial integrity that reflects Indonesia’s national identity and aspirations. It is hoped that the paper can extend the discussion about efforts to make maritime affairs a strategic geopolitical goal along with restoring Indonesia’s identity as a maritime nation.

Ubiquitous place names

Standardization and study in Indonesia

Allan F. Lauder and Multamia R.M.T. Lauder

Place names play a vital role in human society. Names exist in all languages and place names are an indispensible part of international communication. This has been acknowledged by the establishment of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN). One of UNGEGN’s tasks is to coordinate international efforts on the proper use of place names. Indonesia supports this effort and through its National Geospatial Agency (BIG). Place names are also of interest as an object of study in themselves. Academic studies into place names are found in linguistics, onomastics, philosophy and a number of other academic disciplines. This article looks at these two dimensions of place names, standardization efforts under the auspices of international and national bodies, and academic studies of names, with particular reference to the situation in Indonesia.

Maya H.T. Liem and Ing Lwan Taga-Tan

The principal objective of this article is to focus on the life-story of Siauw May Lie and her views about her past. She is the daughter of the well-known, influential politician, Siauw Giok Tjhan. Between 1945 and 1965 Siauw Giok Tjhan was member of the Parliament of the Indonesian Republic and chairman of Baperki (Badan Permusyawaratan Kewarganegaraan Indonesia, 1954-1965). Her lifestory fits into the category of respondents with a cumulative migration history. As the Chinese Indonesian Heritage Center (CIHC) of the KITLV believes that the recording of life-stories is a valuable addition to the collection of material heritage, the interview with Siauw May Lie about her life and opinions is an example of the interviews and part of the research conducted by the Oral History Project of the CHIC.