Mapping Food Politics in Indonesia, Part II

Mapping Food Politics in Indonesia, Part II

By Huiying Ng, part ofTANAH (SG)

Post Salon, Mapping process

The mapping process evolved through the first Salon held at Lifepatch, withTANAH and Bakudapan. It was mentored by Ita Fatia Nadia (Bu Ita), a leading feminist scholar. The mapping process took place in three sessions over the week following the Salon session. Part II dives into the mapping process. You can find Part I here.

Idea & Approach

This mapping process extended the Salon as part of an interest to understand agrarian political change in Indonesia, from the view of a young food study group in Yogyakarta. While agrarian political change in Indonesia is an area of academic focus and ethnographic research, the expansive work in this field is limited to the audience that reads this. This work with Bakudapan was an attempt to understand agrarian change from the perspective of a younger generation of individuals who grew up in the city, unmediated by subjective experiences of food and farm-based politics.

Tanah’s work focused on scaffolding, and extending their interest in food towards an area they were less familiar with. The diagram below reflects our thought processes, as we sought to ask questions that would extend lines of inquiry.

Experience of Process

After the initial mapping, we discussed the purpose of coming up with a map looking at the landscape of food and agriculture, and the best way to proceed. From discussions, there is an emerging understanding of how food policy is influenced by different actors. Each member noted things they had not known, and how much there was to know about the influence of politics on daily food practices.

Thematic questions raised:

1. On Patterns: How do we find and understand patterns? What are some overarching narrative threads? i.e. Policy frames and narratives, and intention.

2. Stakeholders and Agency: Understanding the roles and motivations actors have within the framework of policy; how actors may arise within a narrative’s horizon, and shift the conversation (extent of agency).

3. Power Dynamics: Khairunnisa from Bakudapan points out the power relations relations between actors within the system, and wondered about their individual and organisational interests — who’s this agency investing in, who are they associated or involved with? The framework of power about who makes decisions regarding food (or who defines what is hunger, poverty, etc).

4. On Capital flows as markers, on the nature of relationships: Gatari of Bakudapan chimed in noting that agentic relations between stakeholders or actors could be highlighted through the map, illuminating flows of capital and influence. Inherently, the interaction effect between policies also speaks to dynamics and power play amongst actors.

E.g. EPGNM — international policy that uses Indonesia as meeting point (and translated through agency within it). Relationships towards some aims and collaborations/alliances towards goals.

5. Directional Flows: We also consider how migrational flows were another means of perceiving how the knowledge of food and farming is distributed both inside and outside Java, but also how labour moves in relation to geographical lines and borders.


Future work can consider questions including:

What policies provided easy trade routes into Indonesia? What existing trade policies allow food imports and exports into/out of Indonesia? What forms of transnational collaboration were there and what narratives of food sovereignty were there during Sukarno’s time?

Both from the lecture, and from the mapping, we are provoked to ask how this mapping activity has been a form of conscientisation, but also an opportunity to invite future responses and clarifications to terms raised during the Salon. These terms included “food sovereignty”, “agricultural solidarity” and “food security”. Herein, maps are tools for working through narratives and interconnecting issues within the food system, and a collaborative means to which piecemeal solutions can be built upon.

The next step includes a discussion about needs and direction. The issues within the Indonesian context are complex and intertwined — Bakudapan is taking into mind the needs of the audience: the chance for them to share is rare, a topic that broadens into the future, deep critical conversations and exchange is needed; an expectation of seeing where changes in Indonesia are going.

TTANAH’s collaboration with Bakudapan took place during 22–27 January 2018, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. This is the first leg of Tanah’s food-mapping work with regional partners in Southeast Asia.