The Mess of Mafias? Regulating State Support in Rural Indonesia

Mr Colum Graham1

1Australian National University, Australia

Relations between the Indonesian state and countryside are increasingly dependent on material support. From a broad view, increased material distribution to the countryside in the absence of state extraction is supposed to better enable the persistence of rural surplus populations. More localised accounts of state support into rural communities observe how new distributional claims inform emerging political dynamics of eligibility. Based on long term fieldwork in a village in Bojonegoro, East Java called Lone Teak, this paper questions the role of state support in its community’s persistence. Known subsidies for agricultural production, the primary source of income for the vast majority of Lone Teak’s households, are the most openly criticised forms of state support, whereas less openly criticized are state supports for service delivery and welfare. The basis of villagers’ critique is what particular state supports do for households’ persistence understood in terms of indebtedness. By placing household debt at the centre of analysing the role of state supports in rural Indonesia, a clearer understanding of its emerging distributional politics is possible.


Colum Graham is a PhD student in the Department of Political and Social Change.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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