Organized Panel Session
Over the last three decades, the growth of the palm oil industry has transformed Indonesia’s politics and political economy almost as much as it has remade the physical landscape of much of the country. As Indonesia has become the world’s largest producer of palm oil, plantations have spread over vast expanses of Sumatra, Kalimantan and other islands. The industry has generated great wealth for actors able to benefit from it, and given rise to new informal coalitions between economic and political elites at multiple levels of government. It has also generated new forms of contention and, often, violence, as people and communities displaced or marginalized by the industry have resisted its spread, or as collective actors have competed for a stake in the industry and the rents it generates. So far, however, despite path-breaking works on palm oil by political ecologists, anthropologists and others, few works have focused specifically on the politics of Indonesia’s new palm oil industry. The papers presented in this panel each take up this challenge, addressing a separate dimension of how oil palm expansion in Indonesia has generated new forms of collective action, violence and contentious politics, or given rise to novel political alliances and policy-making challenges at both center and periphery, while impeding others. Adopting diverse methodological approaches, drawing on both qualitative and quantitative analyses, the papers sketch the contours of a new politics of palm oil in contemporary Indonesia.