Vigilantism and Violence in Decentralized Indonesia

The Case of Lombok

Author: Adam Tyson


This article examines the variable powers, positions, and legitimacy of informal authorities in Lombok, Indonesia, most notably tuan guru (Muslim clerics) and their affiliate pamswakarsa (vigilante forces). It argues that recent accounts of tuan guru as peacemakers downplay the complex structural factors that enable outbreaks of ethno-religious violence in the first place. By analyzing successive permutations of disorder, traceable back to the colonial era, this article helps locate and give context to the current policing and political dilemmas surrounding vigilantism in Indonesia. It then demonstrates how, in the era of decentralization, local and provincial authorities endeavor to domesticate pamswakarsa groups and their charismatic leaders. Finally, this article concludes that renewed spiritual expansionism, such as the renovation of Hindu temple sanctuaries in Lombok, elicits extreme responses from tuan guru. These responses provide renewed impetus for vigilante violence, strain interisland relations, and, at times, stifle economic development.

Countries: Indonesia

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