Posted in Readings

Thinking out loud

When I read a fiction about the hen who dreamed she could fly, I found that it fits perfectly with my research. I am neither studying about hen nor fiction, but the story demonstrates some elements that makes one rebels or conform to the rules.

When I was sitting on the floor at public library, watching my 10-months old baby crawling and learning to stand up, I got an insight on my research. Even as a baby, he didn’t limit himself to crawl only at the designated kids area. He explored far away to distant and uncharted territory. Perhaps not due to rebellion per se, but because his mind hasn’t been introduced to the concept of “regulation”.

When I was at home, I’ve had a conversation over lunch with my husband that made me realize how I have been practicing what I am about to research. It could be considered a crime, albeit small ones. I was violating the norms, not only once and not unintentionally. I rationalize my decisions by weighing its pro and cons and conceptualizing it as a “period of exploration and exception”. I hadn’t even thought that I would finally study exactly on that matter.

When we moved to a shared house last weekend, on our first night, our housemate became a blatant example of what I am supposed to be inquiring. He was doing illegal activity that makes our house smells like Amsterdam. In other places, this activity is totally legal, which makes me note that legal/illegal is contextual.

Then, at night, all five of us in the new house were gathering to watch a documentary. It was about Bajau Laut, the stateless “sea-people” who are considered illegal migrants everywhere. It really brought me into thinking a lot of unanswered questions on my research.

Suddenly, everything is about my research.
Suddenly, everything is related to my research.

Hence, I blog, first and foremost to keep me focused, to document my non-linear, seemingly irrelevant thought processes around my research project so it wouldn’t be gone. Oh yes, it could easily be gone in a blink and that is the last thing I would like to happen.

The research that I have been constantly talking about is my PhD research. This year, five days before my 30th birthday, I got the greatest gift of my life, a 5-year PhD scholarship from NWO (Netherlands Organisation on Scientific Research) at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. I am part of a team of seven (one principle investigator, one post-doc, two co-supervisor, and three PhDs each from Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa) to investigate the idea of “exception”, where the legal and illegal blurs. We are going to study how it came to be, what constitutes and how things work in such situation, moreover, who decide that it is legal/illegal in first place.

This blog is also my study/research companion. Making a chronicle of what’s going on my mind to help me to learn through imitation. For example, on Bajau Laut documentary, I can learn about the story line and what aspects do the filmmaker pay attention to. Maybe I could emulate some of it on my own research. At the same time, I write to have a routine self-evaluation: is this really what my research about, am I heading to the right direction? Because the exception that I am supposed to be inquiring is not all kinds of exception, but it is around conservation, especially “crisis” conservation.

Last but not least, blogging is a good practice because the PhDs in our team are personally going to do ethnographic research (ps: I have always been dreaming of doing long fieldwork, finally it’s going to come true!). It is a good start to make me acclimatized to the habit of writing daily fieldnotes. Hence, this blog is the place where I would let my mind free flows. What you would read here is not a neat final product, but (in a way) raw materials, not only the thought processes but also daily life as a PhD researcher as it is a period in my life that I would like to remember. As I let my thoughts streams, here you would read a rather straightforward and unstylized language, because a lot of time, out of fear of being judged as not “polished” enough, I overanalyzed my language and the way I present my stories. When it comes to writing daily, those things makes me quite paralyzed and mute.

Well, I hope I don’t have to end this post this abruptly, but I don’t know what more to say. That’s all for now, then! Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy and follow my open-ended journey as the story line of an independent researcher in-the-making unfolds. Comments and suggestions are welcome, and looking forward to hear from you.

Yours truly,

Featured photo source:

Posted in Readings

Kisah sedih petani sawit perempuan

Rangkuman dari tulisan:

Julia and Ben White. 2012. “Gendered Experiences of Dispossession: Oil Palm Expansion in a Dayak Hibun Community in West Kalimantan”. Journal of Peasant Studies 39 (3-4): 995-1016


Pembukaan perkebunan kelapa sawit memberikan dampak yang berbeda-beda bagi masyarakat lokal. Dalam penelitian ini, Julia dan White menyoroti dampak yang dirasakan perempuan Dayak Hibun di Dusun Anbera, Desa Dabat, Kabupaten Sanggau, Kalimantan Barat. Sebagai gambaran awal, sebagian besar perempuan Dayak Hibun putus sekolah setelah menyelesaikan SD. Usia pernikahan rata-rata berkisar antara 13-20 tahun. Dewan Adat Hibun mengampu urusan adat masyarakat Hibun.

Sebelum perkebunan kelapa sawit dibuka, masyarakat menanam karet, beras, serta ladang campuran. Lahan adat terdiri dari tiga jenis, yakni lahan kolektif (poyotono), lahan milik klan atau satu keturunan keluarga (poyotiant), dan lahan individual dari warisan. Perempuan Dayak Hibun berhak mendapatkan warisan tanah sama seperti laki-laki. Mereka mendapat hak mengakses tanah komunal adat dan hutan, sama seperti laki-laki. Hanya saja, perempuan tidak terlibat dalam struktur formal kepemimpinan adat.

Ketika perusahaan hendak membuka perkebunan sawit, perusahaan mendekati pemimpin formal maupun informal, yang terdiri dari pemimpin adat, pemimpin masyarakat lokal, guru, pemimpin keagamaan, dan lain-lain. Perempuan Dayak Hibun Dusun Anbera tidak ikut terlibat dalam pengambilan keputusan pembukaan perkebunan sawit, sebab semua pemimpin tersebut berjenis kelamin laki-laki. Para pemimpin ini ditugasi untuk memberi tahu warga lain, termasuk para perempuan. Mereka mendapatkan bayaran untuk melakukan tugas tersebut, juga untuk mendaftar sebanyak mungkin petani kecil ke dalam skema inti-plasma. Di kemudian hari, mereka bersama dengan kepala desa, anggota kepolisian dan militer, direkrut sebagai Satuan Pelaksana (Satlak) perusahaan yang digaji tiap bulan.

Secara formal, konsesi lahan komunal diserahkan kepada perusahaan perkebunan dalam bentuk Hak Guna Usaha (HGU). Hal ini menghilangkan hak masyarakat adat terhadap lahan komunal. Mereka diajak bergabung dalam skema inti-plasma perkebunan sawit. Skema ini mengharuskan mereka menyerahkan lahan untuk mendapatkan sepetak kebun sawit dengan perbandingan 5:2 atau 7:2. Artinya, mereka memberikan lima atau tujuh hektar lahan dan mendapatkan dua hektar lahan yang sudah ditanami sawit. Sisa tiga atau lima hektar lahan tersebut menjadi milik perusahaan inti perkebunan. Meskipun kebun sawit yang mereka dapatkan itu lebih kecil daripada lahan yang mereka serahkan, setelah mendapatkan kebun sawit mereka harus membayar cicilan untuk melunasi kebun tersebut. Hasil bulanan yang mereka dapat dari panen sawit dipotong oleh perusahaan, antara lain untuk membayar cicilan, pemeliharaan infrastruktur, ongkos transportasi, pembelian pupuk, dan bibit.

Pemerintah memberlakukan sertifikasi lahan pribadi berkenaan dengan pembukaan perkebunan sawit. Proses formalisasi kepemilikan lahan ini menunjuk laki-laki kepala keluarga sebagai pemilik lahan. Perempuan dapat menjadi pemilik lahan secara formal jika suaminya meninggal atau bercerai. Satu perempuan bukan janda yang diwawancara dalam penelitian ini mengatakan bahwa ia membuat KTP dengan status janda supaya bisa memiliki lahan secara formal. Tadinya, secara adat, perempuan Dayak Hibun memiliki lahan, misalnya melalui warisan. Namun, akibat proses formalisasi kepemilikan lahan, sertifikat lahan itu harus atas nama suaminya. Akibatnya, kontrol perempuan terhadap penghasilan keluarga berkurang. Perempuan yang mengalami hal ini ada yang harus menjadi penderes karet di kebun tetangga untuk memenuhi keperluan sendiri dan pendidikan anak. Tanpa kepemilikan formal terhadap lahan, perempuan tidak bisa memberi jaminan kepada bank untuk mendapatkan kredit. Perempuan juga tidak bisa menjadi anggota koperasi sawit maupun Serikat Petani Kelapa Sawit, karena hanya petani sawit terdaftar yang bisa menjadi anggota.

Dampak lain yang dirasakan perempuan Dayak Hibun adalah pembagian tugas yang lebih berat bagi perempuan. Mulanya, ada perbedaan tanggung jawab yang jelas antara laki-laki dan perempuan dalam pekerjaan pertanian. Laki-laki melakukan pembakaran untuk membuka ladang, perempuan merawat ladang. Pekerjaan membersihkan lahan, menanam, dan memanen dilakukan bersama-sama oleh laki-laki dan perempuan. Hasil pertanian berupa beras tabu dijual, hanya untuk dimakan keluarga atau dibarter. Karet dideres oleh laki-laki dan perempuan. Hasil berupa latex dijual oleh laki-laki. Perempuan identik dengan tanaman yang tidak dijual, sementara laki-laki mengurus tanaman yang menghasilkan uang kas.

Pada perkebunan sawit, perempuan merawat pohon sejak pukul 06.00 atau 07.00 sampai pukul 16.00. Perempuan harus bertanam sawit di lahan sendiri, bekerja sebagai buruh perkebunan inti sawit, serta menjadi pemulung berondol sawit yang jatuh untuk menambah penghasilan dan mendukung keuangan keluarga. Meski mengerjakan lahan, perempuan bukan pemilik formal, sehingga tidak bisa menjadi anggota koperasi petani sawit. Perempuan menjadi kelas pekerja, sementara jabatan struktural perkebunan dipegang oleh laki-laki. Pemupukan, penyemprotan pestisida, fungisida, dan pemberantas hama dilakukan oleh perempuan. Mereka jarang dilengkapi masker, kacamata, sarung tangan atau sepatu, apalagi boots, meski kandungan kimiawi dari pestisida tersebut berbahaya bagi kesehatan. Perlengkapan tersebut harus dibeli dengan uang sendiri, padahal harganya jauh lebih mahal daripada penghasilan yang mereka terima. Di perkebunan inti sawit, pekerjaan memanen dan menjual hasilnya dianggap terlalu berat untuk perempuan, meski pada kenyataannya perempuan melakukan pekerjaan ini di lahan plasma. Karena pemanenan dan penjualan dilakukan oleh laki-laki, uang hasil penjualan dipegang, bahkan dikelola, oleh laki-laki.

Uang hasil penjualan tersebut seringkali habis di tangan laki-laki dengan alasan membayar tenaga pemanen, padahal sesungguhnya dihabiskan untuk membayar pekerja seks di kafe yang mulai bermunculan. Selain menimbulkan masalah sosial dan keluarga, fenomena ini membuat sumber penghidupan perempuan petani sawit hancur. Perempuan petani sawit harus bekerja ekstra untuk memenuhi kebutuhan hidup. Salah satunya dengan memulung berondol sawit yang jatuh meski harga jualnya lebih rendah daripada tandan buah segar (TBS). Jika tidak diambil pemulung, berondol tersebut hanya akan tergeletak dan membusuk. Hampir seluruh pemulung berondol sawit adalah perempuan. Polisi memperlakukan pemulung berondol sawit sebagai pencuri yang melanggar teritori perusahaan dan mengambil properti. Perempuan diintimidasi, dilecehkan dan diancam. Ada dua perempuan yang pernah diproses secara hukum karena memulung berondol sawit. Meskipun demikian, karena keterdesakan hidup, perempuan tetap memulung berondol sawit, terutama secara berkelompok.

Keterdesakan hidup semakin menghimpit karena perubahan hubungan masyarakat dengan pertanian dan lingkungan. Kelapa sawit ditanam secara monokultur di lahan. Luas lahan pertanian campur berkurang. Kebutuhan terhadap sayur tidak bisa dipenuhi dari lahan sendiri. Hutan rusak oleh perkebunan, sehingga tidak ada makanan yang bisa diambil dari hutan dari tidak ada bahan baku untuk membuat kerajinan rotan yang bisa dijual. Sungai tercemar. Bahkan, ketika perempuan mengambil ikan di sungai, mereka dilarang polisi dan harus mengembalikan tangkapan karena sungai itu milik perusahaan. Situasi ini menyebabkan perempuan mau tidak mau harus ikut mencari nafkah dengan bekerja keras. Mereka pun lebih paham untuk membela kepentingannya dan melawan tekanan dari pihak-pihak yang mengintimidasi.

Secara garis besar, setidaknya ada lima hal yang dialami perempuan Dayak Hibun akibat pembukaan perkebunan sawit. Pertama, perubahan akses dan kendali terhadap lahan dan sumber daya lainnya. Kedua, perubahan pembagian kerja antara laki-laki dan perempuan. Ketiga, penurunan kendali terhadap penghasilan keluarga. Keempat, perubahan strategi bertahan hidup. Kelima, peningkatan perlawanan terhadap tekanan korporasi dan patriarki. Di sisi lain, pembukaan perkebunan sawit membuat mereka pengetahuan baru. Pengetahuan baru tersebut antara lain tentang ekonomi modern yang bergantung pada uang tunai, karakteristik tanaman, naik turun harga sawit, pentingnya hak atas tanah dan variasi sumber penghasilan, serta efek lingkungan yang dihasilkan oleh perkebunan kelapa sawit.

Posted in Readings

To make mama Woolf proud

Last night, Julianne and me had dinner at a brand new, the first and maybe the only mexican food diner in town. She teaches English at a private university, and we had casual conversations about silly things, student loans in the US, food, tv series, and of course, books. Under dim light, girly song playlists and outdoorsy ambience, we both confessed that Virginia Woolf was quite a difficult read.

I’ve tried to read Mrs. Dalloway, but fell asleep instead. I’ve re-read her slimmest book, “A Room of One’s Own” twice, and still didn’t get it, until I read it from the last page backward. This way, I can read one paragraph at a time as a separate entity, without being chained by a supposedly forward-flowing “plot”. I put it inside my drawer, eager to share what I’ve got after finally rereading (for the fourth or fifth time) my favorite parts, for example the London part and the part when she got legacy from her aunt that made her free from “doing work that one did not wish to do”.

looks blurry, really need to fix the camera soon

Initially, she wrote this book as a speech about women and literature. But she kept on writing and it turned out to be too long. Perhaps the way this book had been written wouldn’t appeal to readers with preference for conventional “plot”. Still, some parts are inspiring to me, as a woman and human being who have been silent for too long and self-sabotaging my voice.

Personally, I think that the importance of her work (“A Room of One’s Own”), is to remind me not to sabotage my self.

Here are some passages that I would like to share. Enjoy!

Refering to woman in fiction and in reality:

“Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.”

On writing/integrity:

“At any rate, where books are concerned, it is notoriously difficult to fix labels of merit in such a way that they do not come off. Are not reviews of current literature a perpetual illustration of the difficulty of judgement? ‘This great book’, ‘this worthless book’, the same book is called by both names. Praise and blame alike mean nothing. No, delightful as the pastime of measuring may be, it is the most futile of all occupations, and to submit to the decrees of the measurers the most servile of attitudes. So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a fair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.”

And, emphasizing financial independence:

“I need not, I am afraid, describe in any detail the hardness of the work, for you know perhaps women who have done it; nor the difficulty of living on the money when it was earned, for you may have tried. But what still remains with me as a worse infliction than either was the poison of fear and bitterness which those days bred in me. To begin with, always to be doing work that one did not wish to do, and to do it like a slave, flattering and fawning, not always necessary perhaps, but it seemed necessary and the stakes were too great to run risks; and then the thought of that one gift which it was death to hide – a small one but dear to the possessor – perishing and with it my self, my soul – all this became like rust eating away the bloom of spring, destroying the tree at its heart. However, as I say, my aunt died; and whenever I change a ten-shilling note a little of that rust and corrosion is rubbed off; fear and bitterness go. Indeed, I thought, slipping the silver into my purse, it is remarkable, remembering the bitterness of those days, what a change of temper a fixed income will bring about. No force in the world can take from me my five hundred pounds. Food, house, and clothing are mine for ever. Therefore not merely do effort and labour cease, but also hatred and bitterness. I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me. So imperceptibly I found myself adopting a new attitude towards the other half of the human race.

Finally, this post is a self-reminder to assert the spirit of an independent woman, who are genuinely happy with her life choices, who are living her always risky life with hard-earned courage, who are embracing her life experience as a source of lesson and treasure them as a stream of wisdom, who are trying her best to constantly develop herself and being ready for future accomplishments, instead of being stuck in an uninspiring situation where she is doing what she does not want to do, who are having relationships with the world and still staying true to herself.

Nobody said that being independent would be easy. But not being one is a lot more difficult.

Trust me, I’ve tried. 🙂

This post is a contribution to the Book Review Day.

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”


“Do not believe in anyth…

Posted in Readings

“Poor” Peasants …

The great famine of 1944-1945 experienced by the peasantry of North Vietnam, however, was of such magnitude as to dwarf other twentieth century subsistence crises in the region. In the best of times, the cultivated land in Tonkin barely sufficed to feed its own population. The Japanese and their Vichy allies, nevertheless, converted much paddy land to jute and other war-machine crops. After the October 1943 harvest, the occupation forces literally scoured the countryside in armed bands, confiscating much of the crop. A near-famine became a total famine when a series of typhoons from May to September broke dikes and flooded much of Tonkin’s paddy land, destroying the tenth-month harvest in 1944. Even millet, potatoes, adn rice bran were exhausted; potato leaves, banana roots, grasses, and the bark of tree remained. Those who tried to plant a few potatoes might find that they had been pulled out and eaten during the night.Starvation began in October 1944 and before the spring harvest in 1945 as many as two million Vietnamese had perished.”

Guess who writes this? A very famous scholar … but if we look a little bit closer … what is he really trying to say? self-reflection

PS: Sorry I haven’t write here for a long long time, I’m busy with assignments and research (oh, and exam is creeping in the corner)! On Monday I have to present my research design, and afterwards I’ll be dwelling into this nerve-wrecking journey (a.k.a. research, revision, revision, revision …). And I absolutely need to learn how to write better.