Drawing on two decades of ethnographic research in Sulawesi, Indonesia, Tania Murray Li offers an intimate account of the emergence of capitalist relations among indigenous highlanders who privatized their common land to plant a boom crop, cacao. Spurred by the hope of ending their poverty and isolation, some prospered, while others lost their land and struggled to sustain their families. Yet the winners and losers in this transition were not strangers-they were kin and neighbors. Li's richly peopled account takes the reader into the highlanders' world, exploring the dilemmas they faced as sharp inequalities emerged among them.
The book challenges complacent, modernization narratives promoted by development agencies that assume inefficient farmers who lose out in the shift to high-value export crops can find jobs elsewhere. Decades of uneven and often jobless growth in Indonesia meant that for newly landless highlanders, land's end was a dead end. The book also has implications for social movement activists, who seldom attend to instances where enclosure is initiated by farmers rather than coerced by the state or agribusiness corporations. Li's attention to the historical, cultural, and ecological dimensions of this conjuncture demonstrates the power of the ethnographic method and its relevance to theory and practice today.
Tania Murray Li is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, where she holds the Canada Research Chair in the Political-Economy and Culture of Asia. She is the author of The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics, also published by Duke University Press; coauthor of Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia; and editor of Transforming the Indonesian Uplands: Marginality, Power and Production.
Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Positions 2. Work and Care 3. Enclosure 4. Capitalist Relations 5. Politics, Revisited Conclusion Appendix: Dramatis Personae Notes Bibliography Index