The University of Wisconsin Press

Asian Studies / Political Science / History


From Rebellion to Riots
Collective Violence on Indonesian Borneo
Jamie S. Davidson

New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies

Alfred W. McCoy, R. Anderson Sutton, Thongchai Winichakul, and Kenneth M. George, Series Editors

"Fascinating. Davidson’s careful historical examination of this decades-long sequence of riots deserves to be read by anyone interested in ethnic conflict and violence. I learned a great deal."
—Donald L. Horowitz, Duke University

From Rebellion to Riots is a critical analysis of the roots of contemporary violence in one of Indonesia’s most ethnically heterogeneous provinces, West Kalimantan. Since the late 1960s, this province has suffered periodic outbreaks of ethnic violence among its Dayak, Malay, Madurese, and ethnic Chinese populations. Citing evidence from his research, internal military documents, and ethnographic accounts, Jamie S. Davidson refutes popular explanations for these flare-ups. The recurrent violence has less to do with a clash of cultures, the ills of New Order—led development, or indigenous marginalization than with the ongoing politicization of ethnic and indigenous identity in the region.

Looking at key historical moments, markedly different in their particulars, Davidson reveals the important links between ethnic violence and subnational politics. In one case, army officers in Soeharto’s recently established New Order regime encouraged anti-Chinese sentiments. To move against communist-inspired rebellion, they recruited indigenous Dayaks to expunge tens of thousands of ethnic Chinese from interior towns and villages. This counter-insurgent bloodshed inadvertently initiated a series of clashes between Dayaks and Madurese, another migrant community. Driven by an indigenous empowerment movement and efforts by local elites to control benefits provided by decentralization and democratization, these low-intensity riots rose to immense proportions in the late 1990s. From Rebellion to Riots demonstrates that the endemic violence in this vast region is not the inevitable outcome of its ethnic diversity, and reveals that the initial impetus for collective bloodshed is not necessarily the same as the forces that sustain it.

Jamie S. Davidson is assistant professor of political science at the National University of Singapore. He is the editor, along with David Henley, of The Revival of Tradition in Indonesian Politics: The Deployment of Adat from Colonialism to Indigenism.

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Of Related Interest:
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The September 30th Movement and Suharto's Coup d'État in Indonesia
John Roosa
"This is essential reading for students of modern Indonesian history, and for anyone interested in political violence, the role of the military in politics, and U.S. foreign policy."—Geoffrey Robinson, UCLA

From Rebellion to Riots

May 2008
LC: 2007039161 DS
312 pp.   6 x 9
11 b/w illus., 4 maps, 2 tables

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Paper $24.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-22584-1
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The cloth edition, ISBN 978-0-299-22580-3, is out of print.

“Thoroughly grounded in both the burgeoning theoretical literature on ethnic violence and the turbulent history of western Borneo, this nuanced study shows the need to disaggregate such vast entities as Indonesia to understand the ‘tipping points’ towards violence.”
—Anthony Reid, National University of Singapore



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