Grumblies, Anna-Teresa (2017). The Construction of Marginality among Upland Groups in Indonesia: The Case of the Wana of Central Sulawesi. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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This dissertation explores the concept of marginality and its meanings for upland groups in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. The Indonesian uplands are often described as a marginal domain, situated economically, socially and politically outside of the Indonesian mainstream. Upland people like the Wana, swidden farmers living in Central Sulawesi, are often described as “primitive” people who “fit the bill” of the “real indigenous” (Li 2000:162). Against this background the Wana have developed their very own understanding of their marginality. Only recently they have started to use their marginal position as a powerful tool to counteract marginalization processes directed towards them. Based on data collected during 14 months of fieldwork this work describes how marginalization processes relevant for Wana people are perceived and created by Wana themselves and by various local and non-local actors. My guiding research question concentrates on the question of how marginality is constructed culturally by Wana people. I draw my insights from two different ethnographic settings: The first is located in the mountainous region of Salisarao, where Wana live in scattered households and could easily be described as geographically isolated. The second research setting refers to the interreligious community of Taronggo, a village with state administration and road access, where Wana live together with Christian and Muslim neighbors. Wana obtain a self-ascribed marginalized standing that is deeply intertwined with cosmological narratives and a millenarian movement. For them, marginality in this context is characterized as a contemporary but transient situation that is deeply embedded in Wana cosmology. Furthermore, for Wana, marginalization occurs within socio-religious hierarchies in which Wana “animists” (often perceived from a state point of view as “non-believers”) feel subjugated by their Christian and Muslim neighbors. What is more, the political-economic dimension of Wana marginalized status is constituted by the ongoing danger of land loss and forced resettlement, historically a well-known state of distress for Wana people. Only recently Wana have become involved in the politics of the so-called masyarakat adat movement, which reconfigures the meanings of marginality for Wana and other upland groups all over Indonesia. The general theoretical literature on the subject of marginality in the context of Southeast Asia and particularly Indonesia is deficient with regard to three highly important issues: (1) The role of religion in the discourse on marginality for Southeast Asian upland groups, (2) the role of ‘powerful friends’ for marginalized people and the formation of marginalization processes and, (3) how knowledge and the access to knowledge influences power relations between margins and center. This thesis addresses these three deficient areas and reveals how they impact upon the Wana and their marginal status, both ascribed and self-ascribed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
Grumblies, Anna-Teresaanna.grumblies@gmx.deUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-79186
Date: 2 December 2017
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Fächergruppe 4: Außereuropäische Sprachen, Kulturen und Gesellschaften > Institut für Ethnologie
Subjects: Generalities, Science
Other and comparative religions
Customs, etiquette, folklore
Geography and history
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Indonesia, Central Sulawesi, Wana, marginality, marginalization, animism, shamanism, cosmology, interreligious marriage, religious conversion, indigenous groups, indigeneity, masyarakat adat, upland groups, resistance, NGOs, resettlement, Dutch colonialism, land grabbing, anthropologyEnglish
Date of oral exam: 4 May 2016
NameAcademic Title
Rössler, MartinProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes


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