Development and Urbanization
Rural places throughout the world have long been recognised as being simultaneously sites of consumption, especially for leisure-oriented activities, as much as they are sites of (agricultural) production. This is increasingly true across much of Southeast Asia, where it has been less comprehensively researched. The implied assumption, however, has generally been that consumers of the countryside are culturally and socially distinct from, and even displacing, those living off the land as producers –farmers.
This paper presents a case (the Toraja highlands of Indonesia) where reinforcement of place-based cultural identity is the primary driver of the consumption of rural space through a complex ritual cycle, which is fuelled primarily by émigré communities. This is having significant effects on processes of agrarian change, and the role of ritual in Toraja can no longer be considered incidental or marginal to broader processes of regional economic development. Ritual is not only central to the maintenance of cultural identities and spiritual beliefs, it is the key driver of the regional economy. This emerging reality has significant policy implications locally in Toraja, where ritual has long been decried by government planners as being wasteful, extravagant and an economic drain. While the specific elements described here are particular to Toraja, it is likely to be representative of broader developments across the rural world, where the interpenetration of the rural and the urban, the increasingly multi-sited lives of many households, and the search for cultural identity and meaning in the modern world are contributing to its rise.