Flouting the Law: Vigilante Justice and Regional Autonomy on the Indonesian Border


  • Michael Eilenberg Aarhus University




Vigilantism, Illegality, Borderlands, Kalimantan, Indonesia


After the Asian Economic Crisis in 1997 and the fall of president Suharto’s authoritarian regime in 1998, rural and urban Indonesia experienced a surge in vigilante killings and the rise of non-state forms of authorities working within the twilight of legality and illegality, assuming the role of the state. Institutional uncertainty, large-scale decentralisation reforms and the deterioration of formal
legal authority in post-New Order Indonesia encouraged these processes. This apparent ‘lawlessness’ became especially evident along the fringes of the Indonesian state where state authority has continuously been contested and in a state of fl ux. This paper argues that observing these processes of lawlessness and vigilantism from the borderlands provides us with an exceptional window to understand the ambiguous relationship between law and order in post-New Order Indonesia.

Author Biography

Michael Eilenberg, Aarhus University

Michael Eilenberg is Assistant Professor at the Section for Anthropology, Department of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark. His research is based on serial fi eld visits to Indonesia and Malaysia from 2002-2011 and deals with the particular social and political dynamics taking place along the Indonesian-Malaysian border on the island of Borneo.






Current Research on Southeast Asia