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Competing myths of nationalist identity: ideological perceptions of conflict in Ambon, Indonesia

Turner, Kathleen (2006) Competing myths of nationalist identity: ideological perceptions of conflict in Ambon, Indonesia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis examines the 1999-2003 case of political conflict in Ambon, in Eastern Indonesia, in the context of political change in Indonesia from 1950-1998. It is argued that political transformation during this period was closely influenced by a much longer period of unprecedented social change preceding the politics of this period. It is suggested that the ideologisation of ethnic identities is likely to occur when structures of community are disrupted by changes in the contemporary world such as economic fluctuations or state policy interventions. One result is to disrupt traditional village communities so as to place individuals in stress situations making them susceptible to new nationalist ideologies. The other impact is to dislocate authority structures so that both incumbent and aspiring elites lose their power and authority and thus search for new ways in order to re-establish their moral and political legitimacy.

It is argued that nationalism is able to offer a resolution to social disruption and thus to the community in search of social cohesion, while also functioning to rebuild elite authority. In ethnic nationalist ideology, insecurities and feelings of isolation are ameliorated by subsequent constructions of 'us' and 'them' where members of one distinct community are demarcated from other communities. It is suggested that myths of ancestry and homeland together with counterposed moral dichotomies appealed to the Ambonese who needed this form of ideological support. It is the insecurities and fear experienced by disrupted communities which promote this powerful ideological formula.

It is asserted that conflict on the island has been characterised by this trend towards ideological absolutism where two conflicting ideological constructions have translated the conflict into a non-negotiable confrontation between opposing national rights. It is argued that these two ideological constructions have remained internalised on the island and embedded within the mindsets of both Ambonese Christians and Muslims, thereby rendering setbacks to conflict resolution.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Brown, David
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