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Hooe, Todd (2012) “LITTLE KINGDOMS”: ADAT AND INEQUALITY IN THE KEI ISLANDS, EASTERN INDONESIA. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In the Kei islands, adat (custom or tradition) and social hierarchy are inextricably intertwined. This dissertation highlights the entanglements of rank and adat through an analysis of the mobilization of “tradition” by the Kei elite during both the New Order and post-Suharto periods. My central argument is that the construction of tradition is intimately tied to the creation and justification of inequality within Kei society. Over the past twenty years, the Kei elite (i.e., the mel-mel) have articulated particular visions of adat in order to maintain their dominance in the face of local, national and global challenges and uncertainties. The longitudinal approach of this research problematizes the distinction commonly made between the depoliticization of adat during the New Order and the adat revivalism of the post-Suharto years. Based on ethnographic research from 1994 to 1996, as well as a variety of secondary sources of data from the post-Suharto period, it is argued that adat revivalism in the Kei islands emerged in a New Order context in which the mel-mel successfully captured the state bureaucracy and its resources. During the New Order, adat emerged not only as a powerful symbol of Kei identity, but also as a salient resource in local political life. This is demonstrated through an analysis of constructions of adat during state-sponsored rituals and the discourse and practice of Kei adat law. This dissertation then examines continuities in the mobilization of tradition during the post-Suharto period, focusing on adat reconciliation rituals, efforts to establish and maintain adat territories and communities, the commoditization of adat titles, and the rearticulation of adat prohibitions (sasi). Based on these analyses, it is argued that over the past twenty years, high-ranking individuals, both inside and outside the local government, have appropriated adat as the proprietary domain of the Kei aristocracy. As a result, elite articulations of adat have contributed to the rigidification of Kei social hierarchy. Thus, while constructions of tradition may amplify distinctions between cultural insiders and outsiders, this study shows that they may also result in the sharpening of divisions and inequalities within adat communities.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hooe, Toddtrh25@pitt.eduTRH25
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairScaglion, Richardscaglion@pitt.eduSCAGLION
Committee MemberAlter, Josephjsalter@pitt.eduJSALTER
Committee MemberHayden, RHAYDEN
Committee MemberStrathern, STRATHER
Committee MemberWeintraub, Andrewanwein+@pitt.eduANWEIN
Date: 18 June 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 February 2012
Approval Date: 18 June 2012
Submission Date: 12 March 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 405
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Indonesia Adat Law Cultural Politics Ethnicity Democratization Post-Suharto
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2012 20:13
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:56


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