#Focus ICAS12 | Alterpolitics in Southeast Asia – Translating the desire for social regulation
The scholarship on social protest in Southeast Asia has mainly focused on infrapolitics (Scott 1985), social movements (Ford 2013) and transnational social activism (Caouette 2006). Qualitative investigations (Ong 2010; Li 2014) have shown that social protest is the site of encounters between social groups and individuals who have different visions and practices of the world. Included in particular sociocultural and political contexts, these actors express distinct ontologies, cosmologies, ideologies and narratives, framing variegated conceptions and uses of the local, the state and the global, and resulting in scalar misunderstandings, incomprehension and hybridities. This presentation aims to stress that for both intercultural translation and “nonscalability” (Tsing 2015), another factor of differentiation intervenes. It relates to local mechanisms and institutions functioning as social regulators, like: systems of socio-symbiosis between human and other species in the use of environmental resources; complexes of status hierarchy linked to territorial shared sense of ownership, collective memory, and ritual action; arrangements for political participation based on clientelist dependencies; non-merchant networks of transaction; and religious ethics and norms that determine the capacity and will for collective mobilization.
By articulating the study of social militancy with the consideration of the institutions enabling social regulation we want to go beyond the general rhetoric on “resistance” and contribute to the definition of a wider concept termed “alterpolitics” (Ciavolella & Boni 2015). The presentation of several study cases in Southeast Asia will make surface the interest of developing this concept to better understand moves between social mobilization and de-mobilization, transition in the mobilization values, and more widely to facilitate trans-scalar translation.
Gabriel Facal is an anthropologist, specialized on Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia. His PhD (defended in 2012 at Aix-Marseille Université, France) was about strongmen jawara from Banten, Indonesia. He also researched on Indonesian political elites, clientelism and corruption, civil militia, jihadist groups, and Malay ritual initiation (silat). In 2020, he co-founded the Observatory of Political Alternatives in Southeast Asia (ALTERSEA) which ambitions to become a major pole in the region for the research on social movements, social activism, as well as systems of social regulation that are less visible but sustain local capacities of political action. The Observatory is developing through a network of scholars and non-scientific persons interested by the themes to publish collectively, organize discussions and events, and contribute to training and public knowledge.