Power in Word: Language Resistance of Orang Rimba as Ethnic Minority in Central Sumatra, Indonesia

Author: Adi Prasetijo (Anthropology Department, Diponegoro University)
Speaker: Adi Prasetijo
Topic: Language, community, ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Orang Rimba is an ethnic minority in the heart of Sumatra who uses community-based forest management. Their system of customary law and cultural by law rooted in the respect for their natural surroundings. As we understand the process of marginalization has been experienced by Orang Rimba in many practices. There are some events that make their condition marginal. There is a historical process that makes Orang Rimba in a position below in the social structure of society (Malay) in general. This leads to prejudice and stigma and discrimination by the society to them. Then the state itself in the past made them as a policy object that is not oriented to respect their human rights so that the impact of the loss of their cultural identity will be lost. And also, the ecological politics or a change in the direction of environmental policies that are not side with them also have much influence on their lives.

In the ’80s the expansion of palm oil and deforestation develop massively in Jambi. The land is cleared for settlements, plantations, and other development facilities. Orang Rimba is being forced out of their habitat and life upbringing. They are now living in Bukit-12 National Park and the existing palm oil plantations which were used to be their forest. This situation triggered horizontal conflict between the Orang Rimba and other communities and ethnic groups, also with the corporation who operates the plantations. Conflicts between the Orang Rimba with Malay people, for example, has escalated and even lead to physical conflict, causing material damage and death.

Some studies write about the life of an ethnic minority in Indonesia are actually groups that do not stand alone. It even said that they used to be part of a wider society, which then isolated themselves, physically and socially.

Indeed, they are part of an exploitative economic system, part of the trading chain where outsiders (Malays) exploit their lives. One of the factors of change that accelerate of resistance to outsiders is the pressure from the outside and changes in the natural environment so drastic that it creates tension and urgency for them. This paper will highlight language of resistance of Orang Rimba, when they are using metaphor or ‘word’ as symbolic resistance to other ethnic groups, and other parties.

Keywords: Orang Rimba, Sumatra, resistance