Lecture by Pujo Semedi (Universitas Gadjah Mada/University of Freiburg)
Plantations require cheap labour and cheap lands. Labour and lands, in some occasions, were plenty but to make them cheap certain procedures have to be taken. In Java the process took place gradually in the 19th century. It was started with the stripping the Javanese rulers’ feudal right over farmers’ lands the British interregnum 1810-14, insertion of colonial government partial control to land use during the Cultivation System 1830-1880s, and culminating in the introduction of the colonial state domein verklaring, claim of land ownership, through the so-called Agrarian Law 1870. It was the government lands which subsequently leased to private companies for plantations. Liberalization of farmlands had opened a path for the colonial government to exert control over rural, agricultural based labour. They were sent as corvee on public works and government coffee fields. Temporary alienation of Javanese farmers from farmlands begun to occur with the Cultivation System as ⅕ of their lands were requisitioned for government’s crops. The alienation became permanent in 1870, as large tracts of lands that used to be farmers’ land reserves were legally robbed by the government, from then on the farmers were cornered “into a very limited sector of the Netherlands East Indian economy” (Jacoby, 1944: 46). Some of them remained to eke out a living from the dwindling stock of lands, and some others were pushed out from household based farming to sell labour as coolies in plantations and other industries.
Pujo Semedi is a teaching staff and Head of the Anthropology Graduate Program of the Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Cultural Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia). He obtained his Ph.D. from the Universiteit van Amsterdam in 2001. Currently he is a fellow at Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) at the University of Freiburg (Germany). By deploying long term historical ethnographic research (1800s -2010s), Pujo Semedi focuses his effort to understand the social dynamics in Indonesian sea fishery, plantations and smallholder communities as they were exposed to external powerful political-economic forces.
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