Laurens Bakker is associate professor at the Department of Anthropology. He works on questions of governance, law and justice with a focus on land use, resource conflict, discourses of authority and non-state violence. Most of his research is focused on Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia.
At present he is principal investigator for the ‘Securing the Local’ project, which studies the role of non-state security groups in countering the threat of extremist violence and in providing ‘human security’. This is a comparative project that takes places simultaneously in Kenya, Nigeria and Indonesia and that is funded by NWO-WOTRO through its Security and Rule of Law Program. Jointly with Mohamad Nasir of Universitas Balikpapan and Muhamad Muhdar of Prakarsa Borneo, he also heads the Tiram Research Project in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. This project is funded by the International Development and Law Organization (IDLO) and seeks to develop and strengthen the participatory law-making capacities of government, CSOs and local communities in regional resource management.
Laurens Laurens studied cultural anthropology at Leiden University and received his Ph.D. in 2009 from the Radboud University Nijmegen, where he worked at the Institute of Anthropology and Development Studies and at the Institute for the Sociology of Law. His Ph.D. thesis “Who Owns the Land? Looking for Law and Power in East Kalimantan” is available from the Radboud University repository here.
The 'State of Anxiety' project is a collaboration with Lee Wilson (University of Queensland, previously Cambridge University) funded by NWO and the ESRC that began in November 2009 and studies local security groups in Jakarta, Bali, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. The project investigates the political and economic influence these groups wield within their domains, their relationships with elements of the police and military as well local networks of criminality. A particular focus of the research is local conceptions of safety and threat, the ways insecurity figures in the affirmation of difference and processes of identification. How do these discourses of insecurity both facilitate political agency and exacerbate identity-based conflict between groups?
Under the rule of President Soeharto's New Order, 'security' was a central tenet of nationalist political imaginaries. While the New Order was able to forcefully maintain order, disorder and instability were its constant companions (Day 2002), a means of justifying violent intervention and oppression. Post New Order, decentralization and regional autonomy have facilitated the burgeoning growth of sites of non-state authority throughout Indonesia. Civil militias, community organizations and NGOs are just some of the many kinds of non-state agents whose authority contests or exceeds that of the state within their domains. Claiming to preserve the safety of their local communities, common to these sites of localized authority are familiar discourses of exclusion and territorial control that are often cited as the hallmark of sovereign relations in modernity. Custom and tradition, often linked to the issue of control of land and natural resources, are offered as principles of local governance and a countervailing force to the authority of the state.
In exploring these issues we seek to establish the structural factors and processes of identification pertinent to the mobilization and manipulation of ethnic, religious or political identities in the respective field sites. The broader relevance of this research will be explored with respect to identity-based conflict elsewhere in Indonesia, and comparatively in other post-authoritarian contexts.