Brokerage and the Making of Middle Indonesia



Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous nation, extending 5,000 km west to east. Its grand myth of national becoming, the Revolution of 1945, intended to weld together a disparate colonial patchwork, stands in uneasy contrast with the spatial unevenness of its actual history of national integration. Socially speaking, there are two Indonesias: a central Indonesian heartland that owned the revolution and much other mobilizational activity before and since, and an eastern Indonesian periphery that heard about these things from afar and was otherwise preoccupied with its own affairs. Yet Indonesia is united. This paper explores the role of mediation in the “action at a distance” problem of political power. The brokers who brought eastern Indonesia into the new nation came from small towns in the region. The paper traces the biography of one of the main nationalist organizers in one small provincial town in eastern Indonesia at the time when the nation was born. He and his fellows opened doors for central government officials and for fellow locals wanting government jobs. Untroubled by demands from local civil society, they bequeathed factional bureaucratic politics to the town, rather than democracy.