Discourses of ethnic accommodation: issues of othering in Indonesia
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 17:32 authored by Susana Widyastuti
This discourse-based research investigates discourses of ethnic accommodation within the context of ethnic othering of Chinese Indonesians in Indonesia. The overriding purposes of this research are twofold, to identify and illuminate discursive indications of ethnic accommodation; and to formulate actions that can be taken to reduce the effects of othering so as to create more accommodative environments, particularly through discursive means. The research adopts a multi-perspectival approach by incorporating multiple analytical perspectives with relevant theories, methods and data and by taking interdiscursivity as a key apparatus in the research. Integrating the principles of discourse analysis, ethnography and social psychology as its theoretical and methodological underpinnings, the research incorporates five studies representing four analytical perspectives: (1) the social historical perspective; (2) the semiotic perspective; (3) the participants’ perspective; and (4) the analyst’s perspective. Two types of data are examined, namely, government policies and narratives of personal experience which are drawn from three key sites, i.e. schools, churches, and businesses. By incorporating the micro and macro dimensions of discourse, all the perspectives are embraced as a unified whole in order to provide grounded and all-embracing explanations, rather than simple descriptions or interpretations, of situated discursive practices of ethnic accommodation. The discourse analytical findings of the five studies can be synthesized into two main points, which are best explained within the social historical context of the construction of the Chinese Other under three Indonesian regimes, the Old Order, the New Order, and the Reform. Firstly, with respect to indications of ethnic accommodation, the semiotic perspective suggests that, at the state level, Indonesia has ideologically moved away from othering and towards accommodation of Chinese Indonesians. This ideological change is enacted by the Reform regime and is demonstrated through the foregrounding of human rights protection and the annulment of othering practices through the Reform policies. The participants’ perspective articulates the societal level of ethnic accommodation. Participants’ perceptions of social reality can be distilled into four interconnected focal themes – equality, acceptance, tolerance, and trust. Within these themes, the Reform period is perceived as more accommodative than the New Order era, although some traces of subtle forms of othering practices are still evident. In reacting to social reality due to othering, participants demonstrate positive behaviours, e.g. hard work and resilience, to overcome it and, to manage their relations with the majority society, embrace adaptation into mainstream society while retaining aspects of their Chinese identity. These behaviours, this research argues, may contribute to fostering the accommodation of Chinese Indonesians within that wider Indonesian society. Secondly, this research argues for the urgency of further practical actions in order to address the gaps between the ideal and real world, or the state and societal level, of ethnic accommodation so as to create ethnically accommodative environments. The research proposes relevant discursive actions to constitute ‘integrated strategies of ethnic accommodation’ which, it is argued, can be effective if implemented by and through various levels of society – the state, organizations, and individuals; and targeted at and practised by both the minority and majority groups. These actions flow from a key finding that has emerged in this research, i.e. achieving ethnic accommodation entails political support by the government, social change in society, and behavioural change by individuals. In this research, ethnic accommodation emerges as a complex, contested, and coconstructed social phenomenon, particularly within its political, social and psychological dimensions. The research concludes by suggesting that discourse analysis, through a multiperspectival approach, offers an overarching resource for addressing social problems of ethnic accommodation and for reflection that is of practical relevance for the Indonesian government, Indonesian society at large, and Chinese Indonesians in particular.