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Modes of participation and political economy of Environmental Impact Assessments in Bali, Indonesia

Peck, Michael (2022) Modes of participation and political economy of Environmental Impact Assessments in Bali, Indonesia. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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Environmental Impacts Assessments have long provided avenues of participation to communities on questions of development occurring in their area. Despite reforms to the EIA process in Indonesia, large scale developments remain contested. EIA’s role in contested development has often been interpreted as a means to resolve conflict. As such, the literature focuses more on institutions – diagnosing flaws and recommending fixes – than they have on the groups party to the EIA. This thesis presents an alternative understanding of institutions to instead focus on how and why actors engaging with EIAs support or resist development. In doing so, I operate within the Murdoch School of Political Economy, a school in the critical political economy tradition that allows for closer examination of the dynamics of contestation because it considers the broader contexts of global capitalism. This thesis uses Gramscian conceptions of ideology and a lens of legal pluralism to best understand how social groups draw on a wide repertoire of ideologies and normative ordering systems as they contest large-scale developments in Bali. This is particularly necessary given the central role that adat and Balinese Hinduism play in the contestations examined in the case studies. Engaging with these belief frameworks on their owns terms allows for better understanding of the way actors draw on a wide array of ideological and institutional resources to contest or support development – which is integral for understanding how the law, including EIA, actually operates.

This thesis uses data from fieldwork and primary sources to produce an in-depth analysis of how and why social coalitions are engaging in the EIA process. Two case studies are examined in the thesis. The first, PT Tirta Wahana Internasional’s fiercely contested plans to reclaim several hundred hectares in Benoa Bay for a tourism and real estate development, shows how contestation, when not successfully mediated, can spill beyond the bounds of the EIA process. The second case study, MNC Land Bali resort near Tanah Lot temple, highlights how these contestations are not merely expressions of subalterns versus oligarchs. Here, a coalition of social forces’ use of adat institutions to support an illegal development has been integral to the development’s success. This support stands in stark contrast to the site’s history and to the outcome of the first case study. In Bali, adat institutions and village governance processes have provided unique modes of participation and ideological arguments with which residents can contest or support oligarchic interests, village leaders and government decision makers. The research finds that adat and Balinese Hinduism mediate the way these conflicts unfold because of the continuing importance and openness to interpretation of these frameworks and belief systems in the daily lives of Balinese.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Social Sciences and Arts
Notes: Research with Masters Training
Supervisor(s): Warren, Carol and Baker, Jacqui
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