15.3. The Fabrication of Local Identity: Marginalization of the Indigenous Dayaknese Local Beverage in Central Kalimantan

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Create Date10 October 2016

Sofyan Ansori (Universitas Indonesia)


Since he decentralization era started in 1999, the need to search for local identity in various regions in Indonesia gradually emerged. Local elites pursue some specific characteristics to legitimize their indigeneity and authenticity, which is useful to strengthen local power grip. The production of local identity (e.g. adat, tradition) was transformed into a key factor for the success of local government in the transition of political and economic power in Indonesia (Bourchier, 2007; Erb, 2007). In that cultural production, a particular ethnic tradition is often fabricated into a binary dichotomy: ‘good’ and ‘bad’, to come up with a ‘true local identity’. Within this scheme, a considered ‘bad’ tradition is rejected. Baram, a traditional Dayak beverage containing alcohol, faces this kind of rejection. Even though it is inherently a part of Dayak culture, evidences about its existence were systematically deleted in public domains such as museums, books, public documents and other local publications. Baram is perceived as if it is a form of bad habit and also thought as irrelevant to the contemporary Dayak identity that is struggling to eliminate the stereotype of being uncivilized. I would like to argue that the marginalization of baram is not only a matter of political issue but also related to current social and cultural contestation in Central Kalimantan, Palangkaraya in particular. My analysis will be focusing on the relation of the Dayak as indigenous of Central Kalimantan and the migrants from other Kalimantan regions and outside Kalimantan; Dayak with its animistic Kaharingan, and Christian and Moslem migrants; and the image of uncivilized versus modern people. The findings were collected during my short ethnographic research in Palangkaraya and Katingan Regency, Central Kalimantan in 2015. Baram, as I learnt from my research, is accused as the source of over consumption of alcohol that triggers violence and criminal actions both in urban and rural communities. This is a common formulation in the mass media to describe the negative effects of baram. The marginalization of baram continues and escalated into more serious matter as local regime now labeled it as illegal goods. It is then alienated in its own home.

Keywords: Baram, Marginalization, Local Identity, Dayak, Indonesia