Where Commons Meet Commerce: Circulation and Sequestration Strategies in Indonesian Arts Economies



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 33, Issue 1, 58, Article first published online: 21 June 2012


Production commons require social maintenance or stewardship. Stewardship practices, meaning patterns of valuing and caring for cultural resources, often restrict or foster access to knowledge within or beyond a self-defined group. I term these two protective but seemingly oppositional strategies as “sequestration” and “circulation,” respectively. How can we account for individual and group differences in the willingness to share knowledge and techniques for producing cultural expressions? To answer this question, I employ ethnographic narratives, mainly drawn from producers of Indonesian textiles (with comparisons to carvers, musicians, dramatists, and dancers), to construct typologies of informal stewardship rationales and techniques. Examples of circulation and sequestration strategies provide contextual data about what sways artisans' cooperative or competitive behaviors in “split economies.” This term refers to industries where expressive cultural productions serve both internal, embedded social purposes, contributing local cultural value mainly through delayed economic reciprocity, and external commodity markets. Untangling the economic, sociological, and identity boundary aspects of “value” helps clarify conundrums about when producers want to circulate versus sequester information. Sequestration strategies often protect inherited privileges or commercial market share of technically vulnerable industries. Yet, the classificatory divide between community and market economy realms is shown to be subject to considerable slippage.