What is it about?

In this paper, I show that while most studies on citizenship focus on the formal dimensions of citizenship, my paper—using ethnographic fieldwork conducted in a village in the Regency of Sukabumi in the West Java province, Indonesia—pays much attention to the informal dimensions that are actually necessary for realizing formal citizens’ rights. I argue that citizens tend to pressure the authorities in polite, personal, and highly informal ways to deal with state institutions and gain access to public services. Such forms of informal and polite citizenship signify a reasonably effective communal culture of consensus-formation that confines the predominantly complex characters of state institutions in Indonesia. Consequently, citizens have become more capable in claiming their rights and positioning themselves vis-à-vis the authorities. These everyday practices have affected the balance of power between village authorities, informal community leaders, and the citizens. By taking examples from rural West Java, this article unveils everyday informality and the politics of politeness that may also take place in other rural areas of Indonesia and possibly the larger non-Western world.

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Why is it important?

By taking examples from rural West Java, Indonesia, this article unveils everyday informality and the politics of politeness that may also take place in other rural areas of Indonesia and possibly the larger non-Western world.

Perspectives

Writing this article was very tiring yet exciting. I coined a term 'polite citizenship' in order to explain how and why citizens tend to pressure the authorities in polite, personal, and highly informal ways to deal with state institutions and gain access to public services. By coining such a term, I show how and why such forms of informal and polite citizenship signify a reasonably effective communal culture of consensus-formation that confines the predominantly complex characters of state institutions in Indonesia. I hope you find this article thought-provoking.

Dr. Yanwar Pribadi
UIN Sultan Maulana Hasanuddin Banten

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This page is a summary of: Polite Citizenship, Bijdragen tot de taal- land- en volkenkunde / Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia, April 2022, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/22134379-bja10036.
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