2.4. Constitution of Urban Hamlets (Kampung) and the Daily Expression of Identity in Jabodetabek

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Create Date10 October 2016

Shohei Nakamura (Kyoto University)


The greater Jakarta area (Jabodetabek) represents a heterogeneous urban space characterized by an incessant influx of population. For the old residents, however, there is a strong sense of identity regarding ethnicity as well as hamlets of their origin. Betawi is a term to refer to the indigenous population residing in the city and the surrounding area since the time of Batavia, but the definition of Betawi as an ethnic category has long been subject to state intervention. However, the notion of Betawi Ethnicity, as it emerges in the immediate social settings, always does so in relation to the sense of belonging to respective urban hamlets (usually referred to as kampung). Boundaries of such hamlets sometimes overlap with administrative boundaries such as kelurahan, but at other times do not.

This paper first exemplifies what constitutes peoples’ strong identity for their hamlets, focusing on one such kampung located in the suburb area of Depok. It then goes on to examine how a sense of belonging to kampung is expressed in daily occasions, especially in regard with ethnicity. In the case examined in this paper, relatively stable aspects of the hamlet’s social structure seem to ensure the uniqueness of the community. However, their identity is most ostensively expressed in the residents’ aspiration for changes in accordance with the vicissitude of their lifeworld; as long as those changes are to maintain the uniqueness of the community. Ethnic identity of Betawi people is always expressed with reference to such a strong sense of belonging. In Jakarta, where the conversation involves ethnic identity, it is almost indispensable to refer to his or her hamlet. And this reiterated juxtaposition of ethnicity and hamlet is what ensures a channel so as to recognize and represent individuals in Jakarta not by the homogeneous ascription but by a multifaceted description.

Keywords: Kampung, Urban Village, Betawi, Nation-state, Ethnicity