- Problematizing 'ethnicity' in informal preferencing in civil service: cases from Kupang, Eastern Indonesia
- Journal of Asia Pacific Studies
- Volume | Issue number
- 1 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
In an increasingly interconnected, globalized, world a paradoxical preoccupation with ‘belonging’ draws scholarly attention. This concern with belonging has most dramatically come to the fore in post-Suharto Indonesia in the form of various communal conflicts. Less violent in character, the importance of ‘belonging’ is also voiced in the state-dependent Eastern Indonesian town of Kupang as suspicions regarding informal favoring in local civil service. Informal preferencing in civil service is assumed to be based on ethnic favoring. Reflecting a popular social discourse for marking differences rather than a social reality, however, a focus on ethnicity is more obscuring than helpful in analyzing how informal favoring takes place. This article therefore aims to address the usefulness of ethnicity as an analytical concept. Drawing on several ethnographic examples this article argues that social capital -if necessary complemented with other forms of capital- instead of ‘ethnicity’ facilitates informal preferencing in Kupang’s service.
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