Research into citizenship in postcolonial societies can offer new insights into the relationship between ordinary people and the state. Less elitist and more realistic than focusing on formal institutions, this line of research also applies to most people in the world, as Gerry van Klinken argues in his inaugural lecture.
Political violence often follows on the back of the overthrow of an authoritarian or colonial regime, as happened recently in Egypt. It also happened in Indonesia in the years after Independence, in 1945. In his lecture, Van Klinken traces the career of a provincial politician in the small city of Maumere on the Indonesian island of Flores. Though the account ends with the politician’s death, it opens full of optimism as a highly localised struggle for civil rights (rights promised by the Indonesian Republic). Van Klinken asks how we as outsiders receive a story like this one. Instead of pedantically pointing out that the state should have been provided with a stronger democratic foundation, we can also listen to the populace. For them, it was about citizenship. Besides a normative concept, this is also an empirical reality. Informal practices of citizenship in postcolonial countries in particular represent a virtually uncharted territory for social scientists. Certainly in this case, the exploration of such practices yields surprising insights, as Van Klinken concludes.
Prof. Gerry van Klinken, professor by special appointment of Southeast Asian Social and Economic History: Murder in Maumere: Postcolonial Citizenship.