The weight of the past? Corruption through the histories of plantation and election in (post)colonial Indonesia

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Single Panel

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Session 9
Thu 09:00-10:30 REC A2.05

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Abstract

A premise that grounded the continuation of colonialism is, among others, the corrupt colony. The formation of the so-called rational-modern administration and implementation of liberal and ethical policies were addressed to wipe out the old systems that were considered corrupt. However, postcolonial corruption in Indonesia is also often linked to the history of colonial state formation. Apart from some exploratory studies, much remains to be learned about how colonial dynamics have shaped our understanding of corruption over time. This session searches the relationship between colonial and postcolonial corruption, as well as the link between the colony and metropole corruption. What is the weight of the past, and which past? To gauge a more systematic explanation, the question should be observed through a contextual approach. Of this, the panel proposes that we examine specific examples, namely plantations and elections, and the intersection of both. Both demonstrate strong colonial entanglement in one way or another. The plantation was a fine example of the colonial contentious business whose survival was often linked closely to political power, not to mention the misuse of public office and resources often involved. Elections, on the other hand, were intended to embody colonial modernist ideals expected to redress local political life. However, instead of progress, they have become synonymous with corruption. This session provides frameworks to observe corruption either as discourse or practices in relation to the clash of social values between the sharing economics of the agrarian society against the capitalist bureaucratic inclining accumulation, contested claim to political morality both in colony and metropole, stereotyping or racialized (mis)identification. Corruption involves using public power and resources for personal gain and is a pervasive issue that has plagued societies throughout history. It was often not breaking formal regulations but a violation of what was regarded as the standard of general properness that the understanding was contested and continuously changed over time.

This single panel echoes a Dutch-Indonesian research project on the role of corruption in Dutch and Indonesian histories of state formation and economic development. As a follow-up to the earlier Olomuc conference in 2021, in which some preliminary findings have been debated, this panel aims to discuss and evaluate some final findings. This panel has also invited a presenter who is a social science expert to stimulate comparative discussion and broader reflection. We reserve the fourth presenter of the panel for a female scholar who studies Southeast Asia. Therefore, we invite applicants from various disciplines who investigate or are interested in the related topic.