chapter  3
20 Pages

Swearing innocence: Performing justice and ‘reconciliation’ in post-New Order Lombok


Introduction In the post-Suharto period, civilian ‘security’ groups dedicated to fight crime and enforce justice have been a visible and volatile presence on the island of Lombok. The violent ways in which some crime-fighting groups have dealt with alleged criminals has obscured the fact that other groups draw upon ‘traditional’ practices for resolving conflicts and disputes. The renewed interest in using longstanding ritual formats, like collective oath-taking, to counter crime and lawlessness is part of a broader return to ‘tradition’ (adat) on Lombok that has been enabled by the changed political climate in Indonesia since 1998. This chapter examines an oath-taking ceremony called garap that Sasak Muslims in Central Lombok turn to for resolving issues related to ‘intimate theft’: theft of which they suspect that someone in their own community is culpable. Garap is usually arranged in connection with theft, but the practice may also be adapted to settle other grave offences, including homicide. That two out of the five crime-fighting groups operating in northern Central Lombok have incorporated the garap rite into their charters suggests that this institution, far from being a relic of the past, is deemed to be highly relevant for curing contemporary social ills. By examining the performative dynamics of this ordeal, which is steeped in the symbolism of death and rebirth, I will show how expressive culture can facilitate the passage from conflict to conciliation and thereby serve to restore social relations.