- Living dangerously: Oplosan, gambling and competition as everyday risk-taking in Java and East Kalimantan Indonesia
- Disaster Prevention and Management
- Volume | Issue number
- 24 | 4
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to challenge the idea that poor people are generally risk averse and that risks are predominately created by structural conditions and outside forces (Wisner et al., 2004, p. 11; Cardona, 2004, p. 39). It aims to show that some categories of poor people regularly take risks and that they can have good reasons for that. For people living at the edge of Indonesian society, taking risks on a regular basis has become something normal. The possibility that people can actively involve themselves in risky practices needs to be taken into account in risk assessments by government and civil society.
Design/methodology/approach: The material presented in this paper has been collected during long, intermittent periods of ethnographic fieldwork in East Java and East Kalimantan between 1999 and 2014. The data were mostly collected "at the side" of research on poverty, social security, social welfare and livelihood security. It also makes use of a case study on oplosan in Pati, Central Java, written by Frans Hüsken, of newspaper reports, online sources, talks with police officers and online news items.
Findings: In many of the current day risk studies, livelihood risks of the poor are perceived as "externally induced" resulting from outside influences such as disasters, living at dangerous places or as resulting from structural factors such as social and economic inequality. Little attention has been paid to poor and vulnerable people who actively take risks themselves and the reasons to do this. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Java and East Kalimantan, Indonesia, in this paper some risky practices of poor (young) people are explored. Examples are several forms of extreme risk-taking such as drinking parties with potent or even poisonous mixtures (oplosan), gambling and competition (often referred to as trek-trekan).
Originality/value: So far, little attention has been paid to the fact that people often actively involve in risks and deliberately may opt for risky lifestyles and opt to live in risky environments as this offers opportunities for poor people to gain money, prestige and jobs otherwise not accessible.
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