Patrick Guiness: Kampung, Youth and Islam in Urban Java

Patrick Guiness is an anthropologist who first came to Yogyakarta in the 1970s; his most impressive ethnographic work which is highly recognized until now is “Five Families on Sand Diggers.” It talks about the sand diggers in Code River in 1977. This work is a sort of a life history which later became his dissertation that made him obtained his PhD degree. Dr. Guiness also wrote about the scavengers in Yogyakarta. Shortly after that, he published his book about the kampong society entitled “Harmony and Hierarchy in a Javanese Kampung” (1986) which gives sympathy and advocacy to the citizens of Kampung Ledok living in the riverbank of Code River in Yogyakarta.


Dr. Guiness’ diligence as a real anthropologist keeps on going in conducting research and advocacy to the citizens of Code’s riverbank when he came back to see the changing process of Kampung Ledok in the post New Order era in 2000.

Here is a brief interview conducted with Dr. Patrick Guiness during a workshop on “Growing up in Indonesia: Experience and Diversity in Youth Transitions” held at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, and during the launching of his new book entitled “Kampung, State and Islam in Urban Java” at Asian Book.


During the interview, which took place in two separate venues, Dr. Guiness talked about his research in central kampong in Yogyakarta which is in Ledok, and how the people deal with the concept of space and historical change in respond to wider social, economic and political change.




CRCS: What is the difference of your works about kampong from other works which also talk about kampong? Like John Sullivan’s in Yogyakarta, Jellinek’s in Jakarta and Clifford Geertz’ in Pare?


Patrick: In the first chapter of my current book, I spend a great deal of time talking about these people. They were key scholars; these two are Australians, who began writing about these urban neighbourhoods at the time I did mine. So, it is very interesting that John Sullivan was there, when I was there. We used to visit each other and discussed every detail. This is a kind of an issue that tantalized me over the years. It is not a conclusion, because there were a lot of things that they saw, that I did not see. Maybe, I also get the right story and they got the wrong side of the story. It actually took a while to realize it, that we can jeopardize the same phenomenon because we see it in different ways. We can also study two communities, like both kampung in the same city, but in reality they are quite different. And that is the case as well, which is going on in my book. There is a huge case debate I had with them in my newest book. I met the challenge: their idea about “neighbourhood community is simply a state construction.” What they were saying is that: the community found in the city is the result of the intervention of the state. The state organized people so they can spend much on welfare, and the local people cannot do their own social welfare. And I got the debate on this book, I said I don’t believe on this kind of community in the city, certainly in the neighbourhood where I work, it is a community simply impose on the people.


CRCS: How about the condition of the young people in the kampong of Yogyakarta in research?


Patrick: They are very active groups. They are involved in some occasions. Those who are Catholics are involved in choir, and those who are Moslems are involved in Ngaji. There is a youth involvement in the kampong affairs.


CRCS: What is the role of the young people in that Kampong?


Patrick: Within the Kampong of Ledok, there is a seksi pemuda, and RT/RW who are generally young people organizing activities. The seksi pemuda is actively supported by the rest of the community. People see pemuda as an important community life. During the early days of my arrival, pemuda had the role in arranging the community news and the English classes. In the later times, they actively created employment for the youth. They were also active in Pos Ronda. They volunteered to keep the peace and order of the neighbourhood; they provided security to the community. Pos Ronda is participated not only by just pemuda members, young married men participated too.


CRCS: How do those young people now deal with the issue of devoted or fundamentalist young people in the kampong?


Patrick: This is a very interesting aspect, because in the 1970s, when I was there, the most radical group of young people, who were involved in a sort of spiritualist movement, were meditating by the river; they were being intervened and were given power by the spirit. But in the present era, there is a very strong youth activity involved in a number of the district mosques. There are many youth praying in mosques. When I first arrived, there were a few mosques, and I was not sure if they were going to pray in the house. So, Moslem activity has certainly increased immensely. Most of that youth activities in the Moslem area are led by outsiders. They bring in students by offering them free boarding to run the Islamic activities. And basically, the remaja (adolescence) are not interested. The young children and the women are mostly the ones who are involved in these Islamic activities, rather than the group I am talking about, the young guys. They don’t have pengajian and they are not that interested to that world.


CRCS: How do the young people deal with the issue of citizenship? Because most of the people living in Kampong, sometimes they have a house, but they don’t have the land.


Patrick: A lot of people are living not on their own land, others maybe are renting. They will leave the land sometimes, and dig another land to build their own house, and it does not disturb the citizenship of the Kampong. Everyone who lives in the kampong is a member of the kampong. And these huge activities from the kampong’s leaders try to involve the young people to Arisan, Simpan Pinjam, and those sorts of activities. So, in this area, the issue of citizenship is not big issue. The main issue with citizenship in this area in the early days of my arriving, used to live in the cross of the river and living as no man’s land, it was demarcated as kampong territory. They are not demarcated in terms of Kecamatan or legal demarcation.


Hatib: Ok thank you very much Pak Patrick



Up to now, Patrick Guiness teaching as a lecturer in a department of Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra. In the 1980s, Patrick taught in the department of anthropology of Gadjah Mada University for 3 years and became a staff of CPPS (Center of Policy and Population Studies). (HAK)

This post is also available in: Indonesian


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