The Transformations of an Imagined Tradition in Eastern Indonesia
This chapter analyses a series of historical shifts of an imagined tradition known as sasi in the eastern Indonesian province of Maluku – a tradition that was invented under colonial rule but has been continuously reinvented and re-imagined since. It explores the creative and complex processes by which this ‘customary institution’ has become infused with new meaning and emerged as the object of post-colonial contestation among local villagers, Church leaders and state representatives. As I will show, the colonial ‘invention’ of sasi was not a straightforward event but a continual, often internally contradictory, process that involved collaboration between on the one hand, a shifting cast of colonial officers, who took very different approaches to the sasi custom, and, on the other, a local elite who appropriated it for their own purposes. A recent example from northern Maluku will illustrate how local communities have added their own layers of meaning to this tradition. These imaginings are, in turn, at odds with those of the entrepreneurial elite.
Tradition and Agency: Tracing Cultural Continuity and Invention, 2005, p. 193-232