Contentious politics in a remote area of the Moluccan Archipelago, Indonesia

Contentious politics in a remote area of the Moluccan Archipelago, Indonesia
The changes in Indonesia's political administration from centralized to decentralized government administration have heightened the tension over power between the central government and regional governments. Studies on decentralization do not concentrate exclusively on the results of the decentralization agenda. The possibility to execute government affairs free from the tutelage of the provinces and central government and the prospect of controlling the budget of Otonomi Daerah have also incentivized local actors to become involved in local government administration. These dynamics of contention have attracted plenty of attention from scholars studying what is happening. So far, all of these studies have been conducted in areas in a large island where an objective such as an economic benefit is easy to identify. These studies beg the question what happens in remote complex areas like those composed of small islands? Scant attention has been paid to analysing the dynamics of institutional politics and the popular politics in a specified remote area in distant island regions. The need to understand these dynamics is obvious because the splitting of administrative regions (in Bahasa Indonesia called pemekaran wilayah) is still a reality in Indonesia, even on small islands remote from the central island of Java.

My aim in this dissertation is to observe and record the current political struggle to split sMaluku Barat Daya (MBD) and to understand how the previous movements achieved their goals and how these movements exercise power. How does power work for actors and how do they exercise power? The current MBD is the result of the struggle of a political movement driven by elite groups and their supporters who had been part of previous political struggles, either directly or indirectly. In this thesis I have described them as movements of civilians and politicians who put claims on the design of governmental territories. I found connection with the concept of contentious politics, that is helpful in studying of among others movements and mobilization directed to political claims. With this in mind, the major question of this thesis is: How has contentious politics developed in Maluku Barat Daya?


Leolita Masnun

Defended in

1 Jan 2022 – 30 Nov 2022

PhD defended at

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Graduate School of Social Sciences


Social Sciences


Southeast Asia


National politics