Creating Datasets in Information-Poor Environments: Patterns of Collective Violence in Indonesia
Indonesia has witnessed explosive group violence in recent years, but unlike its plentiful economic statistics, the data on conflict are remarkably sketchy. Because the New Order (1966–1998) wanted to give the appearance of order and stability, it did not believe in publishing reports on group conflict, nor did it allow researchers and nongovernmental organizations to probe the patterns and causes of conflict. This article is based on the first multiyear dataset ever constructed on group violence in Indonesia. Following, and adapting for Indonesian conditions, methodologies developed and used elsewhere, we cover the years 1990–2003, split the data into various categories, and identify the national, regional, and local patterns of collective violence. Much that we find is surprising, given the exist-ing theories and common perceptions about violence in Indonesia. Of the several conclusions we draw,the most important one is that group violence in Indonesia is highly locally concentrated. Fifteen districts and cities (kabupaten and kota), in which a mere 6.5 percent of the country’s population lived in 2000, account for as much as 85.5 percent of all deaths in group violence. Large-scale group violence is not as widespread as is normally believed. If we can figure out why so many districts remained reasonably quiet, even as the violent systemic shifts—such as the decline of the New Order—deeply shook fifteen districts causing a large number of deaths, it will advance our understanding of the causes of collective violence in Indonesia.
Journal of East Asian Studies 8 (2008), 361–394
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