Much research has sought to understand why mixed communities in Indonesia have been torn apart by violent conflict. By contrast, little is known about how people live together successfully in the mixed, low-conflict communities that exist in abundance throughout the Indonesian archipelago. This paper explores the inter-communal relations in the multiethnic, Christian-Muslim coastal village of Oelua in Roti, Nusa Tenggara Timur province. Mechanisms of agreement across ethnic, religious and livelihood differences have shaped and reproduced a low-conflict community — including transfers of land, labour, technology and surplus; use of customary law and conflict management; and social mixing and interpersonal relations. The findings suggest that there are lessons to be learned from communities like Oelua about how to foster social and economic inclusion, which could inform national and regional political agendas concerned with governing difference in a post-New Order Indonesia.
Michelle Carnegie is a Lecturer in the Department of Environment and Geography at Macquarie University. Correspondence in connection with this paper should be addressed to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The empirical findings presented in this paper are part of a larger ethnographic study conducted over eight months in 2004, under the auspices of the Australian National University and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. Methods used to collect the empirical data reported on here included observation, semi-structured interviews and informal conversations. Respondents included the village head, prominent religious and community leaders, heads of clans, village elders and ordinary villagers. Following standard conventions to protect respondents' confidentiality, either no name or pseudonyms are used. Historical names have not been changed. The author acknowledges Cartographic Services, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University for producing the maps and satellite image.