Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 38



Semiotic Systems Analysis: An approach to understanding

the construction of margins and centres


Zane Goebel, La Trobe University, Melbourne


April 2017
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons
Attribution-No Derivatives 4.0 International License. To
view a copy of this license, visit


Semiotic Systems Analysis: An approach to understanding the construction of margins

and centres

Zane Goebel, La Trobe University, z.goebel@latrobe.edu.au


One of the three reviewers of the current book asked the editors how they would

conceptualize margins in terms of whether it was a political, economic, linguistic or social

phenomenon. In this chapter, I argue that a better question is how can we examine questions

about margins and peripheries through the placing of all of these domains within the one

frame of analysis. Drawing on a rich history of sociological, anthropological and

sociolinguistic work, I propose an approach that I refer to as Semiotic Systems Analysis. I

model this approach through reference to a host of well-known sociolinguistic concepts,

including metasemiotic commentary, enregisterment, and semiosis. My empirical focus is a

database of online commentaries that constantly formulate and reconfigure the semiotic

make-up of margins, centres, and territory within a particular Indonesian timespace. In

examining this material, I trace imitations of ideologies, events, and actors over the course of

fifty years. I pay particular attention to how imitation across timespace produces tensions

between centralization and fragmentation of Indonesian territories, and how this

relates to global neoliberal ideas about good governance and long established ideas

about ethnicness and its relationship to language.



One starting point for this chapter is the observation that centres and peripheries are never

fixed, but rather in constant flux (Pietikinen & Kelly-Holmes, 2013: 1-2). Another starting

point is Aghas (2015) observation that the terms margin and centre are words that act

like deictics, such as I and you, here and there, yesterday and tomorrow.

Deictics are words whose meaning changes according to who says them, where, to whom,

when, for what purposes, and so on. Just as yesterdays tomorrow is today, in ongoing

discourse one persons margin can be anothers centre. Terms such as margin and centre

thus act like deictics in interaction. This has implications for our analysis of margins and

centres and our use of these terms in the analysis of what might be categorized as marginal or

central. In short, these terms are shifters (Silverstein, 1976) in scale-making projects

whereby what is a margin, a hub, a centre and so on emerges through ongoing discursive

activity (Agha, 2015; Carr & Lempert, 2016).

At the same time, the discursive construction of a margin or a centre relies upon being

able to invoke associations that are timespace dependent. For example, in Indonesia, margins

have historically been associated or enregistered (Agha, 2007) with rural-ness, backward-

ness, ethnicity, under-development, ethnic language, and so on (Goebel, 2015a), while

centres have been associated with provincial capitals (Parker, 2002). When fragments of the

resultant semiotic configuration are imitated in subsequent discourse then can invoke the

whole configuration. Thus, speaking of an underdeveloped area in Indonesia can also invoke

ideas about ethnic-ness, ethnic languages, backward-ness and so on. In this case,

underdevelopment acts as a type of scalar shifter (Goebel, Cole, & Manns, 2016) that

invokes all of these associations.

In this chapter, I draw upon the above insights to examine one of hundreds of

reterritorialization projects that have been occurring in Indonesia since 1999. I use data from


an ongoing research project that has a growing database of around fifty online newspaper

stories and blogs that report some of the discursive moves of a number of interest groups. I

demonstrate how these discursive moves construct centres and margins as part of arguments

justifying reterritorialization. One group seeks to form a breakaway province out of five

existing regencies (i.e. a case of wishing to centralize) using reasons such as, historical

continuity with older kingdoms, cultural and linguistic sameness, regional development, and

better service to the public. Another group, sought to split an existing regency in two as a

way of encouraging development and better service to the public.

I embed my analysis in wider discourses relating to decentralization and

democratization processes that started on a massive scale from 1998 onwards. In doing so, I

explore links with neoliberal ideas about good governance and their uptake by politicians and

bureaucrats as they attempt to redefine margins and centres in contemporary Indonesia

through discourses of underdevelopment and the need to create a more efficient public

service. Ultimately, this chapter provides an examination of the interconnections between

semiotic configurations from different timescales while modelling an approach that I refer to

as Semiotic Systems Analysis.

Semiotic Systems Analysis is inspired by sociological work on world systems analysis

(Wallerstein, 2004), anthropologys recurrent invitations to look at connection (Ferguson &

Gupta, 2002; Marcus, 1995; Tsing, 2005), and sociolinguists calls for us to focus more on

complexity (e.g. Blommaert, 2013; Van der Aa & Blommaert, 2015). In offering this

approach and descriptor, I see it as an alternate to complex sociolinguistics or semiotic

complexity because complexity is increasingly used to describe multimodal studies of talk

in interaction. I offer Semiotic Systems Analysis as an inclusive approach that encompass

all of the above, while pointing to studies that seem to have exemplified this type of approach

(e.g. Agha, 2003; Heller, Bell, Daveluy, McLaughlin, & Noel, 2015; Inoue, 2006). I start by


looking at ideas of good governance before then returning to theories of semiosis. I then

introduce Indonesia with reference to four processes of enregisterment as they relate to

margins and centres, ethnolinguistic identity, development, and good governance, before then

taking a closer look at the case of Cirebon that attracted commentaries in the period between

2008 and 2015.


In its process oriented nominal form, globalization refers to space-time compression, rapid

mobility of people, ideas, and things, the diversification of diversity, and ongoing capitalist

expansion projects (Blommaert, 2010; Harvey, 1989, 2005; Tsing, 2005; Vertovec, 2007;

Wallerstein, 2004). Neoliberal projects and their connection to discourses of good

governance is one well-researched area of globalization studies (e.g. Block, Gray, &

Holborow, 2012; Cameron, 2000; Ferguson & Gupta, 2002; Harvey, 2005; Tsing, 2005).

While there are many variations in what constitutes a neoliberal project, one of the

ideological underpinnings of neoliberalism relates to the utmost importance of the market and

the idea that giving market free rein will result in the social good of all, while also ensuring

individual freedom (Harvey, 2005). A common feature of neoliberal projects is the attempt to

place all social life within a market framework whereby every social activity can be counted,

audited, put in competition with other social activities, and financialized (e.g. Block et al.,

2012; Cameron, 2000; Harvey, 2005; Heller & Duchne, 2012; Urla, 2012).

One area of social life that has received sustained attention within neoliberal projects is

(good) governance of nation states and all of the large and small institutions (in the

sociological sense) found within them (e.g. Block et al., 2012; Cameron, 2000; Ferguson &

Gupta, 2002; Harvey, 2005). Engaging in good governance means that an institution, and the

individuals who constitute it, are self-disciplining in ways that make them more effective and


efficient in all of their endeavours. The effective, efficient, and incorruptible individual is

better able to give service to others and becomes a developed subject who is eminently

prepared to deal with global free-market competition (e.g. Block et al., 2012; Cameron, 2000;

Ferguson & Gupta, 2002; Harvey, 2005).

As Harvey (2005: 29) argues, since the early 1980s neoliberal ideas have been

championed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. These two

institutions helped any country having difficulty with debts by assisting them to reschedule

these debts in return for market freeing activities, such as cuts in welfare expenditure, more

flexible labour markets laws, privatization, good governance initiatives within the

bureaucracy, and so on (e.g. Block et al., 2012; Cameron, 2000; Ferguson & Gupta, 2002;

Harvey, 2005). Since the late 1990s, the IMF and the World Bank have seen facilitating good

governance as one key to assisting developing economies. A quick search on the World

Banks website for Good Governance returned 1635 reports, books, speeches, and media

releases authored by the World Bank. The majority were published between the periods of

2000-2009 (843) and 2010-2017 (745). If we examine IMF factsheets it is also clear that

good governance is a continuing concern (International Monetary Fund, 2016: 1).

If we dip into the World Banks most recent report Governance and the Law (World

Bank, 2017), we find discussions of why uptake of prior initiatives on good governance have

not worked or have been misinterpreted, misused, and so on. These laments about lack of

replication as precise copy of policy recommendations about good governance or what

Ferguson and Gupta (2002: 990) have eloquently summarized as attempts at transnational

governmentality are in fact to be expected if we take into account what we know about the

discursive processes of cultural reproduction, or more precisely semiosis (Agha, 2007;

Tsing, 2005; Urban, 2001).



Linguistic Anthropologists have argued that cultural reproduction is intimately tied to

discursive processes that produce imitations rather than precise copies of any semiotic

configuration commonly referred to as culture (e.g. Agha, 2007; Irvine & Gal, 2000;

Lempert, 2014; Ochs, 1988; Urban, 2001; Wortham, 2006). In settings involving novices and

old-timers (e.g. parents and children), observation together with commentaries about

appropriate and inappropriate behaviour socialize children about how to speak and act in

many situations (Ochs, 1988). These commentaries are typically of the metasemiotic type

because they comment on a whole range of signs rather than just linguistic form. Through

interaction with and imitation of peers and teachers, students learn to align with, inhabit, and

thus reproduce appropriate models of personhood (Wortham, 2006), while also learning how

to align and belong to a larger entity commonly referred to as the nation (Bourdieu &

Passeron, 1977; Hobsbawm, 1992). Like the one-to-many participation framework of schools

(where the teacher is the one and the pupils the many), the mass produced and circulated

media of all sorts figure in this form of cultural reproduction and feelings of belonging to the

nation in particular (e.g. Agha, 2003; Bakhtin, 1981; Hobsbawm, 1992; Kitley, 2000;

Livingstone, 2005). In short, imitating how significant or authoritative others speak, feel,

interact, and so on, represents the essence of what constitutes cultural reproduction or more

precisely semiosis.

In its discursive form, imitation often involves replication of a semiotic fragment of

prior discourse as well as an evaluation of this fragment. For example, in everyday

conversational narratives a fragment of prior practices of someone is replicated and evaluated

(Ochs & Capps, 2001). Similar phenomenon can be found by examining letters to the editor,

and discussions on social media sites, although the participation framework is different to that

found in everyday conversation because it is a one-to-many participation framework (Agha,


2007). Whichever participation framework imitation occurs in, the result (fragment plus

commentary), is a new semiotic configuration, part of which we can refer to as an

interdiscursive hub (Goebel, 2017).

An interdiscursive hub contains semiotic fragments from prior discursive activity,

reference to an authoritative voice, and the use of context erasing deictics that create timeless

truths (Goebel, 2017). Where deictics are concerned, the presence or absence of particular

deictics can also temporally formulate activities, personhood, and so on, as more or less

enduring general phenomena. This is achieved through the use of particular types of nouns

that act as selective deictics (Agha, 2007: 42-43). In English, these include universal

selective deictics, such as any, every, and all, and particular selective deictics, such

as some and somebody. When co-occurring with particular verb configurations, we get to

see how they construe an utterance as being decreasingly anchored to a specific time, place,

and participant constellation, while contributing to the creation of a generalization (Agha,

2007: 42-43). One feature of interdiscursive hubs is that semiotic fragments from them are

then available for future imitation. Future imitations use semiotic forms from these

configurations that function as scalar shifters. Figure 1 illustrates the components of an

interdiscursive hub and how a hub relates to imitation.

Looking at this process from a different vantage point we can say that evaluations, also

help to police social life, in the sense offered by Foucault (1978, 1995 [1977]), by pointing to

what is normative. Such evaluations are also always mediated by a host of other complex

commentaries and evaluations that are occurring in other timespaces (Blommaert, 2015;

Blommaert, Westinen, & Leppnen, 2015). At the same time, chains of such reflexive

policing also help to enregister socially valued semiotic configurations through comparisons

of non-normative behaviours with normative ones (Agha, 2007; Bourdieu, 1984). For

example, a series of newspapers stories that comment on youth, criminality, and ethnicity can


help produce a stereotype of criminal ethnic youth, while reinforcing the normative model

(Collins, Noble, Poynting, & Tabar, 2000).

Fig. 1: Interdiscursive hubs and scalar shifters

Commentary 1 Commentary 2 Commentary 3 Commentary 4 Commentary 5

(interdiscursive (interdiscursive
hub) hub)

1) Semiotic 1) Semiotic 1) Semiotic 1) Semiotic 1) Semiotic

fragment from fragments fragments fragments fragments
prior text including including shifter(s) including including shifter(s)
shifter(s) from from shifter(s) from from Commentary
2) Semiotic Commentary 1 Commentaries 1 & Commentary 3 4
fragment from 2
prior text 2) authoritative 2) authoritative 2) authoritative
voice 2)Authoritative voice voice
3) authoritative voice
voice Scalar shifters Scalar shifter(s) 3) Use of universal
(re)created by 1-2 3) Use of universal (re)created by 1-2 selective deictics
Scalar shifter(s) selective deictics.
created by 1-3 Scalar shifter(s)
Scalar shifter(s) (re)created by 1-2
(re)created by 1-2

Imitation over time

The longevity of all types of semiotic configurations relies upon the replication of

fragments of their timespace constrained semiotic whole and evaluations of these fragments

in another timespace. Longevity is also a product of participation framework and some type

of authority. The longevity of these frameworks and the semiotic configurations that are

imitated within them is also a matter of their social value, which is often underscored by a

powerful actor (the nation or another institution within the nation) or authoritative figures,

such as presidents, prime ministers, politicians, celebrities, sports stars, and so on (Agha,


The ongoing enregisterment of particular semiotic configuration, such as linguistic

forms, social practices, place, and so on has other consequences too. In addition to


engendering belonging and the recognition of boundaries between us and them,

enregisterment also linguistically enfranchises particular populations (Goebel, Jukes, &

Morin, In press). For example, the enregisterment of a semiotic configuration commonly

referred to as Language A or B enables those who feel an affinity toward that configuration to

engage in activism, political campaigns, or language rights activism to protect a particular

language (Goebel et al., In press; Heller et al., 2015).

Understanding semiosis the process of recognition, evaluation, and reuse of semiotic

fragments help to enregister particular semiotic configurations thus helps to explain why

uptake of ideologies of good governance (and the associated practices) will always be

different to what is expected. Such an understanding also helps highlight how semiosis

connects multiple semiotic configurations. While the relevance of linguistic enfranchisement

to these matters will become clearer in the following sections, here it is important to point out

that understandings about linguistic enfranchisement in a particular setting can help explain

why particular evaluations exist in a certain timespace, e.g. claims about language and

cultural rights, essentially mediating further imitation.


Indonesia has been engaged in a series of nation (re)building efforts since winning its fight

for independence from its former Dutch colonial masters in 1949. The period 1949 to 1965

was one characterized by constant moves to form and keep together a unitary state that was

dispersed over more than 17000 islands, which were inhabited by a massively diverse

population. Despite being a nation with a Moslem majority, Indonesia chose to be a secular

nation that recognized all of the major world religions that were practiced within its political

boundaries (Vickers, 2005). Even so, there was regular separatist conflicts based on religious

grounds. With between 400-1000 ethnolinguistic groups in Indonesia, religious allegiances



not only cross-cut religious ones, but they also cross-cut political allegiances (Coppel, 1983;

Liddle, 1970). One the one hand, ethnic allegiances helped to create and/or fuel separatism

resulting in very early discussions about parliamentary representation, centres and

peripheries, and decentralization (Dick, 2002a; Elson, 2008; Hedman, 2008a; Kahin, 1970

[1952]; Legge, 1961). On the other, links between religion and political persuasion often

ended in major violent struggles over socialism and capitalism (Cribb, 1990; Elson, 2008;

Vickers, 2005).

The figure relating to ethnolinguistic groups is fuzzy because this is a result of ongoing

administrative efforts to manage and simplify diversity. By 1965 socialism had lost out to

capitalism and after massive bloodletting, Indonesia re-joined the international community. In

particular, it welcomed development aid from the International Monetary Fund and the World

Bank in exchange for a staunchly anti-communist regime (Elson, 2008; Vickers, 2005).

These funds along with funds from booming oil industry in the early 1970s helped fund

major nation-building projects, including schools, universities, hospitals, and transportation

and telecommunication infrastructures (Bjork, 2005; Dick, 2002b; Kitley, 2000). As

Heryanto (1995), Errington (1998), and others point out through imitations in multiple

timespaces this period became the era of development. During this period, the extent to which

Indonesia embraced developmentalism can be seen in how this idea permeated societal

discourses. For example, the New Order also referred to themselves as a Development

Order, the president as Father of Development, successive cabinets as Development

Cabinets, political parties and their factions as Development oriented parties, and so on

(Heryanto, 1995: 8-9).

The one-to-many participation frameworks of schools, radio, television and newspapers

(i.e. infrastructures for imitation) were especially important for managing and imitating

semiotic configurations of territory and ethnolinguistic personhood (Goebel, 2015b; Parker,



2002). Imitating much older local ideas about the spatialization of nation-states (Anderson,

1972), school lessons territorialized Indonesia vertically into administrative hierarchies and

horizontally into provincial city centres and rural (underdeveloped) peripheries (Parker,

2002). Similar discourses permeated the bureaucracy, and ideas of centre and periphery

became associated with and through discourses of development and underdevelopment

(Heryanto, 1995; Lenhart, 1997; Sullivan, 1992). By the early 1990s counts relating to

ethnolinguistic diversity were at the lower end, with scholars, such as Abas (1987), noting the

existence of around 420 ethnolinguistic groups. A constant within this semiotic configuration

was language practices (hence linguistic), group (ethno), and place, which often corresponded

to provincial and district boundaries. In the early 1990s, perceptive television producers

responded to changes in the television market by producing niche ethnolinguistic material for

an ethnolinguistic market (Goebel, 2008; Kitley, 2000; Loven, 2008). These practices helped

to further solidify ideologies about ethnolinguistic boundaries.

While investment in infrastructures for imitation helped to solidify ethnolinguistic

boundaries, the ongoing development project that was leitmotiv of the Indonesian nation had

created major societal inequalities (Heryanto, 1995; Vickers, 2005). These inequalities,

worldwide pushes for free trade and human rights, together with a host of other

interconnected events forced President Soeharto to resign in May 1998 (Hedman, 2008b;

Vickers, 2005). Very soon after Soehartos resignation, media censorship laws began to be

ignored, allowing increased reportage about ongoing conflicts, calls for independence by

regions outside of Java, as well as criticisms of the government and the bureaucracy (Aspinall

& Fealy, 2003; Bourchier, 2000). With Soeharto gone, the vast patronage networks that had

been set up during his reign unravelled (Bourchier, 2000), resulting in many local struggles

for power and resources, which were also linked with calls for independence (Bourchier,

2000; Hadiz, 2010; Lindsey, 2001). These ongoing discourses were also very much about



contesting and redefining boundaries (national, provincial, district, ethnic), margins (the

underdeveloped under-resourced areas outside of Java) and the centre, such as the major

cities within Java.

During Indonesias first democratic elections in forty-four years, Indonesia also

introduced two new laws, Laws 22 and 25in May 1999 (Aspinall & Fealy, 2003). These laws

devolved political and fiscal powers to cities and districts. Law 25/1999 related to a new

system of fiscal arrangements whereby districts and cities were to receive a much larger share

of revenues earned within their borders (Aspinall & Fealy, 2003: 3). Law 22/1999 devolved

political authority to these districts and cities in the areas of education, health, environment,

labour, public works, and natural resource management (Aspinall & Fealy, 2003: 3). Decision

makers chose to focus on autonomy at the district and city level rather than at the provincial

level because it would set up districts as competitors for resources, while not making them

large enough to think of separatism (Aspinall & Fealy, 2003: 4).

Big bang decentralization and democratization had many unintended consequences.

One of these was the imitation of fragments of semiotic configurations that invoked

ethnolinguistic identity, place, and margin as a way of justifying claims to decentralize and

split former provinces or districts (Davidson & Henley, 2007). This atomization of territory

via the imitation of semiotic fragments relating to language practices, custom, tradition, and

culture was common to the extent that by mid-2003 the number of districts had gone from

360 to 416 and the number of provinces had increased from 27 to 30 (Jones, 2004). By early

2007 this number had increased to 487 districts (Bnte, 2009: 116). While this territorial

fragmentation continued after this period (Aspinall, 2011, 2013), by 2009 the central

government had legislated a moratorium on the formation of new districts and provinces

(Anonymous, 2009b).



Map 1: The island of Java within the Indonesian archipelago


Source: Adapted from Norton Ginsburg, 1968, Southeast Asia. Chicago: Denoyer-Geppert

Company. Accessed 4 May 2014, http://www.davidrumsey.com

While much of the territorial fragmentation occurred outside of Indonesias most

populous island, Java (see Map 1), there were some notable exceptions. For example, Quinn

(2003) points out that Javanese speaking Banten (see Map 2), which was originally part of the

province of Sundanese speaking West Java, was able to successfully make the case for a new

province and officially became one in 2000. The reasons for this were based on claims of

religious, linguistic, and cultural differences, economic grounds, and claims of political

under-representation at the provincial level. In a sense, those involved were using ideas about

language, culture, and territory established during the New Order period as scalar shifters to

invoke difference and justify reterritorialization. In this case, a variety of Javanese that was

claimed to be the dominant language of Banten, was compared with Sundanese ethnic-ness

(language practices, ethnic group and territory) that was established during the New Order via

infrastructures for imitation.



Map 2: Five kebupaten regencies and their surrounds

(Pusat Data dan Analisa Pembangunan Jawa Barat, 2011)

Put another way, the linguistic enfranchisement of a population of Sundanese speakers

via mass schooling, the media, language policy, and other discourses of difference not only

helped Sundanese identify as belonging to a particular ethnolinguistic community anchored

to a particular territory, but it also provided the semiotic resources for others to use when

claiming difference. As Quinn (2003) points out, this successful reterritorialization attracted

attention from other areas within West Java, especially Cirebon located on the North coast,

which was well known for having a variety of Javanese as a common language rather than

Sundanese found in the inland areas. Before looking at whether and to what extent these

differences resulted in further fragmentation it is important to zoom out a little to look at

other related events, in this case the blossoming business of good governance.



At around the same time that decentralization laws were introduced in 1999, two other

laws were introduced by the Indonesian parliament. Law 28 was about good governance, and

another, Law 31, was a remake of a long list of anti-corruption laws (Assegaf, 2002: 127). At

this time, there were also representatives from foreign aid organizations, such as USAID,

embedded within Indonesian ministries and reporting about their experiences, especially in

relation to perceived inefficiencies, ineffectiveness, and corruption within the bureaucracy

(e.g. the account offered in Brietzke, 2002). Within the Indonesian bureaucracy itself, there

were also increasing pressures on civil servants to be more responsive, efficient, and

corruption-free as a succession of new Indonesian governments attempted to embrace ideas

of democracy and good governance (e.g. Lindsey & Dick, 2002; McLeod & MacIntyre,

2007). Some of these ideas were imitations of the discourses found in World Bank reports

(Private Sector Development Unit East Asia and Pacific Region (World Bank), 2001: i).

Rohdewohld (2003), for example, points to a series of reports by the State Minister for

Bureaucratic Reform which listed corruption, inefficient and ineffective mechanisms, and

lack of structured supervision and accountability procedures as serious shortcomings. Such

discourses were imitated in policy documents too (Menteri Pendayagunaan Aparatur Negara,

2002: 1).

For a number of reasons, including the nations first ever direct presidential election,

ongoing election campaigns through Indonesia, and a recently uncensored media, ideas

around good governance began to be imitated on a large scale in Indonesian mass media,

including local provincial papers by mid-2003 (Goebel, 2017). The primary concern of these

stories revolved around the lack of good public services, accountability of public servants,

their need to be politically neutral, and their propensity to be involved in corruption and

collusion. As with the enregisterment of the semiotic constellation associated with

pembangunan development in the 1980-1995 period (Heryanto, 1995), subsequent years



can be seen as an imitation of these ideas, but with a revised focus on the idea of good

governance. As we will see shortly, many of these practices and concerns have been imitated,

and mixed with commentaries about ethnolinguistic identity in mass-mediated discussions

about re-territorialisation.


The examples of discursive semiosis that I look at below are drawn from a relatively small

database of online newspaper reports and blogs that an Indonesian research assistant and I

started to gather in 2014. We initially started by focusing on a combination of a few

Indonesian keywords (pemekaran reterritorialization, propinsi province and Cirebon),

that had come from my reading of two blogs about the city and district of Cirebon (Setiawan,

2012; Sutrisman, 2013), which is located on the North coast of West Java (see maps 1 and 2).

While we intended to go back as far as the year 2000, our initial searches only found material

from 2008 onwards. Quantitatively, this material is very small with only around fifty entries

(summarised in Chart 1 below), as well as two Facebook pages, which I will not consider

here. This small number of stories and social media commentary is an indication of the

limited imitation of arguments around reterritorialization, and indeed ultimately, the proposed

reterritorialization received no wider uptake by those who could make it a reality. Even so, an

analysis of these stories provides insights into the creation of margins and centres through

discourses of reterritorialization that relied upon the use of scalar shifters.



Chart 1 Online discussions about reterritorialization for Cirebon and surrounds




2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015

Some of the most common scalar shifters used across these stories were configurations

that linked reterritorialization with underdevelopment, ethnolinguistic identity, certain groups

of actors, and service to the people. Each of these configurations was an imitation from a

previous timespace. In the period 2008 to 2010, two main groups used these shifters. One

group sought to form a breakaway province out of five existing regencies, namely Cirebon

city, and the regencies of Cirebon, Indramayu, Majelengka and Kuningan (see Map 2). This

group used reasons such as, historical continuity with older kingdoms, cultural and linguistic

sameness, regional development, and better service to the public. Another group, sought to

split the regency of Cirebon in two as a way of encouraging development and better service

to the public.

Excerpt 1 is the first story from my database. It is not the origo of this separatist

discourse with some reports citing 1999 and even earlier (Das, 2009b). Even so, we have to

start somewhere, and I have chosen 2008 as my starting point. This story was published in

Kompas on the 6th of February 2008. Like many Indonesian newspaper stories, the author is

often unknown or represented just by initials. This particular story provides an account of a



mass demonstration where demonstrators are demanding the formation of a new province that

would consist of five areas, Cirebon city, and the regencies of Cirebon, Indramaya,

Majelengka, and Kuningan (regularly referred to with the acronym Ciayumajakuning). In

excerpt 1, the 8000 demonstrators are divided into a number of groups of actors. A number of

fragments here are imitations of or are imitated in future commentaries. I indicate imitation of

just words and phrases with a single underline.

Ex. 1: Underdevelopment as a reason for reterritorialization (2008)

1 Sekitar 8.000 orang dari sejumlah Around 8000 people from a number of
2 organisasi kemasyarakatan (ormas) di community organizations declared the
3 Kabupaten Indramayu, Rabu (6/2), Province of Cirebon as separating from
4 mendeklarasikan Provinsi Cirebon yang West Java on Wednesday (6/2) at
5 terpisah dari Jawa Barat. Deklarasi Indramayu Province. This declaration
6 dilakukan di depan SMP Losarang, was carried out in front of the Losarang
7 Indramayu .Masing-masing perwakilan Middle High School, Indramayu .The
8 massa seperti Forum RT/RW se- respective community representatives
9 Indramayu, DPD Asyahadatain, DPD include the ward and neighbourhood
10 Wahana Masyarakat Tani Indonesia .., forum of Indramayu, Asyahadatain
11 KNPI, dan Pemuda Pancasila Regional Village Representative,
12 melakukan orasi di pinggir jalan dengan Regional Village Representative for
13 pengeras suara dan bentangan spanduk Wanaha Indonesian Farming
14 yang menyatakan dukungan atas Community, KNPI, and Pancasila Youth
15 pembentukan Propinsi Cirebon. engaged in loud orations along the road
holding banners that noted their support
for the creation of the Province of
16 Dalam orasinya, mereka mengaku kecewa In their orations, they noted their
17 dengan pembangunan di Pantura yang disappointment with development in the
18 dinilai lambat dan kurangnya Pantura region, which was evaluated as
19 perhatian Jawa Barat dibanding slow and an example of a lack of
20 pembangunan di wilayah Priyangan. attention by [the] West Java [provincial
government] compared with
development in the Priyangan area.
21 Ketua DPRD Kabupaten Indramayu The head of the Regional Peoples
22 Hasyim Junaedi juga hadir dan Representative for Indramayu Regency,
23 membacakan deklarasi pembentukan Hasyim Junaedi was present and in a
24 propinsi Cirebon dengan berapi-api. provocative manner declared the
formation of the Province of Cirebon.
25 "Rakyat Pantura yang terdiri dari lima The people of Pantura who are
26 wilayah yaitu Kota dan Kabupaten constituted by five areas, namely
27 Cirebon, Kabupaten Indramayu, Cirebon city and the regencies of



28 Kabupaten Majalengka dan Kabupaten Cirebon, Indramayu, Majelengka, and

29 Kuningan menyatakan siap berpisah Kuningan, declare that we are ready to
30 dari Jawa Barat untuk membentuk separate from West Java to form the
31 Propinsi Cirebon," katanya . Cirebon Province, he said.
32 Mereka menamakan aksi itu sebagai They named this action as the Pantura
33 Kongres Rakyat Pantura yang sepakat Community Congress who also agreed
34 membentuk Front Pendukung to form the Supporters Front for the
35 Pembentukan Propinsi Cirebon (FP3C), Formation of Cirebon Province (FP3C),
36 namun personilnya masih menunggu although they are still awaiting support
37 dukungan dari daerah lain. from other areas..
38 "Adanya kongres rakyat Pantura itu The holding of this Pantura
39 merupakan bukti adanya keinginan kuat Community Congress is evidence of a
40 masyarakat untuk lebih maju dengan strong community wish to push for a
41 propinsi baru dan ini harus direspon new province and this must be
42 positif sehingga semangat membangun responded to positively so that
43 daerah ini bisa terus digelorakan," kata enthusiasm to develop this area can be
44 Arief yang juga putra mahkota Keraton encouraged. Said Arief who is also the
45 Kasepuhan Cirebon. prince of the Cirebon Kasepuhan
(Anonymous, 2008)

There are several points to note when examining excerpt 1. There is the reason given

for the need for a new breakaway province, namely the lack of concern by the provincial

capital about the slowness and lack of development in this area when compared with the

interior (lines 17-20 and 40-42). In this case, lack of development when comparted to the

interior starts to construct the five areas as marginal in comparison to a centre (the interior).

At the same, these comments construct a new centre, the proposed Province of Cirebon. Note

too that those with authority are often quoted (lines 25-31 & 37-43). The authoritative figures

included the two Dewan Perwakilan Daerah (DPD), who are part of a new (since 2004)

group of elected officials representing local constituents at national level, and two members

of the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah (DPRD) who are locally elected parliamentarians

sitting on a regency or city level parliamentary seat (in this case for Indramayu and Cirebon).

One of the DPD members, Arief Natadiningrat, was also the prince of the Cirebon

Kasupuhan Kingdom. Of equal importance, is the use of words that act like universal

selective deictics to generalize claims. In this case, the 8000 supporters noted in line 1 are



generalized into the whole population of the five regencies (referred to as Pantura on lines

17, 25, 33, and 38). Development too, is something that the whole population of Pantura do

not enjoy (line 17). As a whole, this text creates the semiotic configuration I refer to as an

interdiscursive hub, while also associating ideas around centres, margins, hubs,

(under)development, and reterritorialization. The imitation of parts of this configuration can

subsequently engender a scalar shift that invokes the whole configuration.

On the 30th of March the blogsite, elgibrany.wordpress.com, published an analysis of

the issue of the formation of a new province of Cirebon (Elgibrany, 2008). The analysis

which appeared to be published elsewhere, perhaps Pikiran Rakyat, was authored by Ani

Nunung, Agung Nugroho, and Marsis Santoso. In the discussion before that found in excerpt

2, the authors pointed to a connection with a political contest for the governorship of West

Java where the Regent of Indramayu, Uruanti Syafiuddin, sought nomination for this post

from his party (GOLKAR). His efforts where frustrated after GOLKAR only chose a vice-

governor candidate, Danny Setiwan, as part of its coalition building efforts with other parties.

This decision was greeted with demonstrations by Syafiuddins supporters in Indramayu.

Ultimately, Syafiuddin joined forces with the regent of Cirebon, Dedi Supardi. They

subsequently formed a caucus and ran a congress for the coastal region, which sought to stop

this region from being marginalized (dinomorduakan literally to be put in second place).

The blog explains that as Syafiuddin and his sympathizers cause gained momentum,

they got support from various areas of the community including, students, artists, and

numerous types of authoritative figures including academics, religious leaders, the mayor of

Cirebon, and the Prince of the Cirebon Kasepuhan Kingdom, Arief Natadiningrat. The

reasons for a new province were many and contested. One group argued that projected

district taxation income would enable a new province, while others were concerned about

whether the new province would have enough income to enhance the welfare of the



community (in contrast to a handful of local politicians), or engender development and the

equitable redistribution of resources. Inability to correct the unequitable redistribution of

resources, the underdevelopment of Cirebon, and cultural difference were other reasons given

by another authoritative figure, the Dean of a local university (ex. 2).

Ex. 2: Distinguishing cultures and reterritorialization

1 Menurutnya, perbedaan kultur antara According to him [the Dean called

2 wilayah yang mungkin menjadi cikal Imam], cultural differences between
3 bakal Provinsi Pantura atau Provinsi areas may become the foundation of [the
4 Cirebon menyimpan potensi perpecahan proposed] Pantura Province or Cirebon
5 yang sulit disatukan. Province hides the potential of a split
that would be hard to reunite.
6 "Misalnya, Ciayumajakuning, pasti tidak For example, Ciayumajakuning
7 akan semua wilayah menerima gagasan [acronym for the five regions], it is
8 itu. Kuningan dan Majalengka akan certain that not all areas will accept this
9 menolak. Wilayah kedua kabupaten idea. Kuningan and Majalengka are
10 tersebut jelas kulturnya Sunda," katanya. going to opt out. The areas covered by
these two regencies are clearly of
Sundanese culture, he said.
11 Pembatas lain yang menurutnya juga jadi Another obstacle, which according to
12 kendala yang sulit ditembus yakni tidak him will be a problem that will be
13 adanya dukungan dari legislatif dari difficult to solve is the lack of legislative
14 wilayah yang bisa menjadi cikal bakal support that would be the foundation of
15 provinsi baru itu. Sejauh pengamatan the new province. According to Imams
16 Imam, keinginan mendirikan provinsi analysis, the wish to form a new
17 baru hanya keinginan segelintir orang saja province only represents the wishes of a
18 tanpa dukungan yang nyata baik dari handful of people and is without explicit
19 masyarakat maupun legislatif. support from either the community or
the legislature.
20 Kalau menyangkut soal porsi If we invoke the problem of unequal
21 pembangunan yang tidak merata, yang development, which is experienced by
22 dirasakan wilayah Cirebon seperti the Cirebon area, or like
23 dianaktirikan, menurut Imam, sebenarnya marginalization, according to Imam this
24 hal itu lebih dikarenakan sistem is caused by the sistem of government at
25 pemerintahan di semua tingkatan, yang all levels, which have been formed on an
26 memang dibangun di atas fondasi yang unstable platform.
27 rapuh.

(Elgibrany, 2008)

The import of ex. 2, and the text as a whole, is how the constantly emerging semiotic

configuration about reterritorialization is now associated with cultural difference (lines 1-10),



development (lines 20-21), and marginalization on line 23. Cultural difference is interesting

here too because it Sundanese culture is part of an older semiotic configuration (Section 4)

that is tightly associated with language. Thus, we can say that the cited author is also

sufficiently aware of ethnolinguistic ideologies (i.e. they are linguistically enfranchised) to be

able to use it in defence of his position on reterritorialization. Put slightly differently,

Sundanese-ness acts as scalar shifter that invokes cultural and linguistic difference.

In ex. 2 there is also an imitation of dinomorduakan that was mentioned earlier in the

text (not reproduced here), but this time it manifests as the word dianaktirikan, literally to be

treated like a step child, but this can also be interpreted as mistreated like a step child or

marginalized. Thus, marginalization becomes relinked with reterritorialization, culture and

language, and development. In addition to imitations from ex. 1 and the use of multiple

authoritative voices, there is also a use of words that function like universal selective deictics.

In this case, we have a generalization of a lack of support through the use of masyarakat the

community (line 19). In sum, the blog is an interdiscursive hub too, although one that is in a

different timespace (scale) that will perhaps select a different audience to the ones addressed

in ex. 1.

With no further uptake of the story in 2008, we need to move forward to a story

published on the 7th of February 2009. This one appeared in the online newspaper, Pikiran

Rakyat, and reported that the Committee for the formation of the Province of Cirebon (P3C)

was going to declare a new province of Cirebon in reaction to the recent government

moratorium on reterritorialization. This committee, along with another, the Panitia Persiapan

Pembentukan Provinsi Cirebon (P4C) The committee for the preparation of the formation of

the Cirebon Province, were the formalized imitations of the Front Pendukung Pembentukan

Propinsi Cirebon The supporters front for the formation of the Cirebon Province cited in

ex. 1 (lines 33-35). The DPD noted in ex. 1 were not mentioned, but the DPRD Indramayu



was cited as a supporter. There were also new supporters mentioned. These included

members of the Village Body Association from Cirebon (BPD), two regents, the Regents of

Indramayu and Cirebon, the Indramayu local parliament, and the Mayor of Cirebon city (Das,

2009b). Unlike the 2008 story, this one provided no reference to lack of development

compared to the interior. What it did have was the use a universal selective deictic, seluruh

all, in a claim that all members of the five areas in question were now aware of the

declaration. A month later on the 8th of March an online newspaper, Antara News, reported

on the actual declaration of a new province (ex. 3). This declaration was made by the chair of

P3C, Nana Sudiana, in a hotel in Cirebon in front of thousands of supporters (Bambang,


Ex. 3: Imitating discourses of underdevelopment and relinking them to law and culture

1 Ketua DPRD Indramayu Hasjim Juniadi The head of the Regional Peoples
2 dalam sambutan singkatnya mengatakan, Representative for Indramayu Province,
3 masyarakat Kabupaten Indramayu sudah Hasyim Junaedi said in his short
4 enam bulan menyatakan pentingnya opening address that the community of
5 kemandirian, yakni membentuk provinsi Indramayu Regency had for the last six
6 Cirebon. months voiced the importance of
autonomy, that is, the formation of
Cirebon Province.
7 Sementara M Iqbal (DPRD Majalengka) At the same time, M Iqbal (a [member]
8 atas nama tokoh masyarakat Majalengka of the Regional Peoples Representative
9 mengatakan, pembentukan provinsi for Majelengka Province), noted, in the
10 Cirebon adalah untuk mempercepat name of Majalengka community figures,
11 kesejahteraan masyarakat di wilayah that the formation of Cirebon province
12 Ciayumajakuning . was for the speeding up of community
welfare in Ciayumajakuning.
13 Begitu juga Ketua DPRD Kabupaten Similarly, the head of the Regional
14 Cirebon H. Tasiya Soemardi yang Peoples Representative for Cirebon
15 merekomendasikan pembentukan provinsi Regency, Haji Tasiya Soemardi,
16 Cirebon demi kemajuan masyarakat dan recommended the formation of the
17 mempercepat pembangunan. Cirebon province as a way to develop
the community and to speed up
18 Sementara itu, Ketua Presidium Panitia At the same time, the head of
19 Pembentukan Provinsi Cirebon (P3C) Committee for the Formation of the
20 Nana Sudiana kepada wartawan Province of Cirebon (P3C), Nana



21 mengatakan, segala persyaratan Sudiana, said to reporters that all the

22 pembentukan provinsi Cirebon sudah requirements for the formation of the
23 terpenuhi. Cirebon province had been met.
24 "Sesuai tahapan setelah Pemilu Presiden, In accordance to the stages [noted in
25 sudah jadi provinsi (Provinsi Cirebon: the regulations] after the [national]
26 Red) karena segala persyaratan sesuai PP Presidential elections [we] will be a
27 78 tahun 2007 sudah terpenuhi," province (Cirebon Province editor)
28 katanya. because all the requirements of the
government regulation number 78 issued
in 2007 have already been met, he said.
29 Menurut dia, kajian berbagai aspek sesuai According to him, the study of all
30 yang dipersyaratkan oleh PP 78 tahun angles, which are requirement of
31 2007 telah dilaksanakan, antara lain government regulation number 78, 2007,
32 penduduk, kemampuan ekonomi, has already been done. Among other
33 kesejahteraan, seni budaya, hukum things population [density], economic
34 sampai pada tata ruang. viability, welfare, art, culture, law and
35 Ditambahkannya, persiapan pembentukan all the way to organizing the offices.
36 provinsi Cirebon sudah sejak 2004. He added that preparation for the
formation of Cirebon province has been
ongoing since 2004.
(Bambang, 2009)

In the report from the 8th of March (ex. 3), many of the actors from the two previous

stories were involved. This included members of the P3C, local members of parliament from

the regencies of Cirebon, Indramayu, and Majelengka, as well as a parliamentary

representative from the city of Cirebon (lines 1, 7, 13-14, and 18-12). Ideas around

(under)development found in ex. 1 are imitated too (lines 10-12 and 16-17). Importantly, we

also see other forms of authority and justification being constructed, in this case with

reference to a recent law about the requirements for reterritorialization (lines 21, 26-27, and

30-31) which includes population density, economic ability, overall wellness of the

community, art, culture, and law (lines 32-34). Just as importantly, the use of the word

masyarakat the community (lines 3 and 8) helps generalize the claims, to a claim made by

everyone. The old information (reterritorialization, development and underdevelopment, and

actors), together with this new information reconfigures previous interdiscursive hubs. These

additional actors and practices have, in this timespace, become part of a new semiotic

configuration (a narrative justifying reterritorialization).



In the two hours that followed three further stories appeared in Tempo, Liputan6, and

Pikiran Rakyat (Bog/Antara, 2009; Das, 2009a; Ivansyah, 2009). Collectively they imitated

semiotic fragments from previous stories, including information about reterritorialization and

actors,development, the law, art, culture, and the historical case. They also socially

identified, by name, some of these actors, while noting some new ones. These commentaries

also listed some significant others who were not present, including the Regents (Bupati) and

Mayors (Wali Kota) of the regions in question, and the invited governor of West Java.

One day later, another online newspaper, Republika, imitated the story from the 8th of

March (Anonymous, 2009a). The topic (reterritorialization) and historical precedent were

imitated, as was the non-attendance of the current heads of each areas (the mayor of Cirebon

and the Regents of Cirebon, Indramayu, Majalengka, and Kuningan). The story named the

actors present, including all the DPRD figures, the ex-vice-mayor of Cirebon, the ex-area

Secretary of Cirebon, and members of P3C and P4C, while adding that there were other

important local personalities (tokoh masyarakat). The story also imitated previous fragments

about the five regions economic ability, while contrasting this with the case of Banten (see

discussion in previous section). Discourse relating to the reterritorialization of Cirebon

received no further uptake until the 11th of August 2009 when a blogger, Eko Risanto,

imitated fragments from all of the prior stories (Risanto, 2009), while adding a whole host of

new ones (ex. 4).

Ex. 4: Blogging about reterritorialization

1 Masyarakat pantai utara Jawa Barat yang The Northern coastal community of
2 terdiri dari Cirebon, Indramayu, West Java, which consists of Cirebon,
3 Majalengka dan Kuningan Indramayu, Majelengka and Kuningan
4 (Ciayumajakuning), mendeklarasikan (Ciayumajakuning), have declared the
5 berdirinya Propinsi Cirebon. Mereka formation of the Cirebon Province. They
6 ingin mandiri dan berpisah dari induknya seek autonomy and separation from the
7 Provinsi Jawa Barat. Selain kesadaran home Province of West Java. Apart from



8 historis, masyarakat di sana merasakan a historical precedent, the community

9 tak seimbangnya antara kue pembangunan feels there is an imbalance in the
10 dengan sumbangsih keuangan yang development pie especially the money
11 disetor wilayahnya ke pusat. contributed to the centre by the region.
12 Sedangkan yang kembali ke daerah tidak While the amount that comes back to the
13 signifikan. Setidaknya ada lima alasan region is insignificant. At the very least,
14 mengapa Cirebon layak menjadi propvnsi. there are five reasons why Cirebon is
ready to become a province.
15 Pertama, Jawa Barat masih terlalu luas First, West Java is still too vast with a
16 dengan jumlah penduduk yang large population.Now, with the total
17 besar....Kini, dengan jumlah penduduk population of Cirebon area 3 or
18 wilayah III Cirebon atau Ciayumajakuning (Cirebon, Indramayu,
19 Ciayumajakuning (Cirebon, Indramayu, Majalengka, Kuningan) the population
Majalengka, Kuningan) mencapai jumlah totals 8.5 million people.
20 8,5 juta jiwa.
21 Kedua, potensi ekonomi wilayah Second, the economic potential of the
22 Ciayumajakuning sangat tinggi dan bisa area of Ciayumajakuning is very high
23 menarik investor lebih banyak lagi. and can attract many more investors.
24 Ketiga, melihat segi historis karena The third [reason], from a historical
25 pernah menjadi Kesultanan Cirebon yang perspective, is because Cirebon was an
26 berdaulat dan berjaya. Islamic Kingdom that was sovereign and
27 Keempat, adanya ketidakseimbangan Fourth, there is an imbalance in
28 pembangunan di Jawa Barat yang lebih development in West Java, which is
29 terpusat di Bandung dan sekitarnya. more centralized in Bandung and its
30 Kelima, adanya momentum gerakan surrounds. Fifth, there is momentum in
31 warga yang merasa kecewa karena tidak the peoples mobilization regarding their
32 ada figur dari wilayah Ciayumajakuning disappointment with not having a local
33 yang bisa tampilsebagai pimpinan di figure from Ciayumajakuning, who can
34 tingkat Jabar. . [politically] lead at the West Java
provincial level.
35 Selain itu, tentu saja kawasan Apart from that, it is clear that the
36 Ciayumajakuning telah memiliki Ciayumajakuning region has
37 infrastruktur yang sangat mendukung. .... infrastructures that would be very
38 Dari segi sumber daya alam, kawasan ini supportive. From the perspective of
39 memiliki laut yang panjang, dengan natural resources, this area has a big
40 kekayaannya yang masih belum tergali. ocean, with rich resources yet to be
41 Selain itu, juga ada sumber minyak, gula extracted. In addition, there is oil, sugar,
42 dan lumbungnya beras (Indramayu). and rice storage facilities in Indramayu.
43 Anggota Dewan Perwakilan Daerah The local representative for the national
44 (DPD) RI PRA Arief Natadiningrat . parliament Prince Arief
45 mengungkapkan bila selama ini Natadiningratpointed out that to date
46 pembangunan hanya terpusat di wilayah development had been centred in the
47 Bandung dan sekitarnya. Bandung area and its surrounds.
48 Akibatnya, fungsi Bandung tidak hanya As a result, Bandung functions not just
49 sebagai pusat pemerintahan, tetapi juga as a centre of government, but also a
50 sebagai pusat budaya, pendidikan, centre of culture, education, industry,
51 industri, dan perdagangan. and trade



52 Hal ini seolah-olah semua fungsi ingin This practice is as if all functions are
53 diambil pusat dan daerah lain seperti desired by the centre, and other areas
54 Cirebon tidak diberi porsi, tutur like Cirebon arent given a share, said
55 Pangeran Arief.Demikian juga masalah Prince Arief.It is also the same with
56 budaya. Budaya Sunda termasuk bahasa culture. Sundanese culture including
57 Sunda mendapat tempat khusus, sebelum Sundanese language have been given a
58 akhirnya budayawan Cirebon mendesak special place, in the end Cirebon cultural
59 adanya pengakuan bahasa Cirebon specialists pushed for recognition of
60 sebagai bahasa daerah Jawa Barat yang Cirebon language as a regional language
61 kemudian berujung pada munculnya of West Java and then struggled until the
62 Perda Bahasa Daerah. appearance of a Local Government
Regulation about Regional Languages.
(Risanto, 2009)

In ex. 4, we see the start of the explicit discursive construction centres (pusat) and its

relationship with development and unequal redistribution of finances (lines 8-13). This

implies the five regions are currently marginal, while solidifying earlier ideas around under-

development of these presupposed margins. Like the prior stories, this blog refer to a number

of authoritative voices through quotation and the display of pictures of some of the actors. As

the blog proceeds, we see that the voice of the prince and DPD member fleshes out the

semiotic constituents of a centre by including governance, culture, education, industry and

trade (lines 45-52), followed shortly by language (lines 56-62), and later customary law

(adat). In the rest of the blog, there is also imitation of discourses around reterritorialization

law, income potential from taxation, historical antecedents, and the first mentions of a new

province helping to bring efficient public services closer to the people. There is also the first

mention of the problem of broken infrastructure that cannot be fixed locally because of the

need to be handled by the centre. In this blog, there are also the use of words that act like

universal selective deictics, in this case masyarakat the community on lines 1 and 8. These

act to generalize the authors stance to that of the whole community.

In 2009 there were no further newspaper reports about the reterritorialization noted

above, although in December there were two online news stories relating to the moratorium



on reterritorialization (Anonymous, 2009b; Fikri, 2009). These stories, however, mentioned

the need to reterritorialize areas in the interior close to Bandung, giving reasons of large

populations that required better access to public services. Reterritorialization in this case was

generally about splitting existing territories into two, and more rarely forming a new territory

from multiple areas (Anonymous, 2009b; Fikri, 2009).

In 2010, reterritorialization again was reported as an issue and the same types of

imitation and nomic truth formation ensued with imitations from the past acting as scalar

shifters. I will just summarize these commentaries. In June 2010, reterritorialization was

reported as being contested at the local level in two articles (Das, 2010; Ivansyah, 2010). In

contrast to past stories, however, now reterritorialization was about splitting the regency of

Cirebon into two regencies. The story invoked the 2007 law on reterritorialization,

democratic processes rather than demonstrations, while also pointing out that one group

justified reterritorialization because of the underdevelopment of the Eastern areas, and the

large distance those in the East had to travel when needing to organize identity cards,

banking, birth and funeral reporting, business reporting, and so on (Das, 2010). Another

group argued that reterritorialization would unfairly redistribute revenue to those who did not

earn it (Ivansyah, 2010). Just as importantly, it was pointed out that there was a tendency for

development efforts to be focused in the West (Ivansyah, 2010). In short, these discourses

were now constructing new margins and centres, with West Cirebon now a centre rather than

Bandung (Ex. 4) and the East a marginal and under-developed region.

In September, Viva news reported a story about a group of twenty-five supporters of the

formation of a new province of Cirebon (from the regencies of Cirebon, Indramayu,

Majelengka and Kuningan) arrived at the DPRD office in Bandung to re-air their aspirations

for reterritorialization (Amri, 2010a). This time they met representatives of the head of

Commission A within the DPRD, which is responsible for working on issues of



reterritorialization within the province of West Java. Among the actors, was the president of

P3C, Nana Sudiana who gave three reasons justifying reterritorialization. These were: 1) the

three year claim for reterritorialization; 2) the majority of the population in the five areas

were for the reterritorialization; and 3) the governor and vice-governor of West Java had

promised, during their election campaign, to help with the formation of a new province of

Cirebon. The economic basis of these claims mentioned in the previous years were further

fleshed out with reference to actual income figures (Amri, 2010a). In this case, areas that had

previously been cast as margins, were now to become a new centre of economic power.

Five days later the same reporter and newspaper published a story reporting on the

opinion of a member of the local Cirebon City DPRD (Amri, 2010b). In this case, M Aidin

Tamin the secretary of Commission 4, which deals with reterritorialization at the local level

gave three reasons why reterritorialization was not possible: 1) there had been no official

request; 2) there needed to be five areas before a new province could be formed, and that to

his knowledge the five areas in question had not agreed to reterritorialization; and 3) that it

was not possible from an economic perspective to become an independent province. The

result of such a move would be a reduction in the well-being of the newly formed

community, rather than the desired improvements (Amri, 2010b). In short, the same

economic grounds used in earlier reports to justify the formation of a new centre, were now

used to construct the hypothetical new province as engendering further hardship or

marginalization for its community.

Two further stories were published in December 2010, but neither were about a new

province (Anonymous, 2010; Fikri, 2010). Instead, there were two stories about the splitting

of Cirebon regency into two new regencies. These stories reported about a demonstration by

a group of twenty-five men, led by Dade Mustofa, a member of a committee for the creation

of a West Cirebon regency. This group marched for seven days to the capital city of Bandung



to meet with the governor of the province, Ahmad Heryawan, and ask that Cirebon Regency

be split into two new regencies, East and West Cirebon. The reasons given for demanding a

split were that this was a historical issue where access to public services was difficult. For

example, those in the east had to travel forty-five kilometres to the West whenever they need

to organize anything requiring the help of the local government. Other reasons given included

economic preparedness and the need to speed up efforts relating to community wellbeing, as

well as the development of infrastructure and improvement of public services (Anonymous,

2010; Fikri, 2010).


In this chapter, I examined the discursive construction of margins and centres by those

residing in the margins of one Indonesian province. I have done so with reference to concepts

used in the study of semiosis, especially metasemiotic commentary, enregisterment, nomic

truth, interdiscursive hubs, scalar shifters, and linguistic enfranchisement. I have shown how

metasemiotic commentaries and the use of particular context erasing deictics figure in the

construction of semiotic configurations in a particular timespace, and how this process

produces scalar shifters that are imitated in subsequent commentaries. These imitations can

invoke their past indexical associations, while helping to formulate a new semiotic

configuration. Because of these continual and often minute changes in semiotic configuration

from one timespace to the next, I have chosen to refer to this process with the term semiosis

rather than cultural reproduction. This is so because cultural reproduction often invokes the

idea that some whole has been replicated (i.e. replication as precise copy rather than

imitation). Over a three-year period, this constantly emergent semiotic configuration enabled

the idea of reterritorialization to become associated with all of the activities and ideas in fig.

2. At the same time, this process helped to imitate registers of reterritorialization. While the



make-up of these registers was constantly reconfigured, the presence of multiple ideas,

activities and actors from the past provided the necessary semiotic anchoring to enable the

formation of a new semiotic configuration.

Fig. 2: Registers of reterritorialization

Separatism; the formation of a new province; the splitting of a regency into two; a whole

group of authoritative actors (academics, politicians, a prince, activist group leader,

bureaucrats, community leaders, and the public); economics (taxation revenue, industry,

transportation and communication infrastructures); democratization; population

demographics; politicking; coastal and interior areas; community welfare; law; custom;

history; inequality; education; (under)development; ethnolinguistic groups and cultural

difference; public service provision; and religiosity.

Through the study of the formation of registers of reterritorialization, I have also traced

connections to the idea of globalization. In exploring the connections between processes of

globalization and marginalization, I have explored how IMF and World Bank neoliberal

ideologies about good governance have been imitated within the Indonesian bureaucracy. Just

as importantly, I have shown how such ideologies are eventually imitated in another

timespace as part of and a contributor to the construction of discourse of reterritorialization.

In this case, better service to the public was regularly used as part of the discourses that

constantly reconfigured the semiotic make-up of margins and centres in the territories in


The importance of tracing imitation through timespace was not just relegated to

semiotic fragments related to good governance, but also to ideologies about development,

separatism, ethnic-ness, and so on. The point being that just focusing on language or even the



social aspects of language will provide little insight into what constitutes a margin or centre.

Taking inspiration from a broad range of work the focuses on connection and complexity, I

have argued that more nuanced understandings of semiosis require us to place history,

politics, economics, cultural reproduction and language use into the one frame of analysis. I

use the descriptor Semiotic Systems Analysis to refer to this approach.


Abas, H. (1987). Indonesian as a unifying language of wider communication: A historical

and sociolinguistic perspective. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
Agha, A. (2003). The social life of cultural value. Language and Communication, 23(3-4),
Agha, A. (2007). Language and social relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Agha, A. (2015). Commentary. Paper presented at the Symposium Margins, hubs, and
peripheries in a decentralizing Indonesia convened at the Sociolinguistics of
Globalization conference University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 3-6 June.
Amri, A. B. (2010a, 23 September). Menagih Janji 'Provinsi Cirebon'. Viva. Retrieved from
Amri, A. B. (2010b, 28 September). Pembentukan Provinsi Cirebon Baru Wacana. Viva.
Retrieved from http://nasional.news.viva.co.id/news/read/179994-politisi-pks-pesimistis-
Anderson, B. (1972). The idea of power in Javanese culture. In C. Holt, B. R. O. G.
Anderson, & J. Siegel (Eds.), Culture and Politics in Indonesia (pp. 1-69). Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press.
Anonymous. (2008, 8 February). Ribuan Orang Deklarasikan Provinsi Cirebon.
Megapolitan.kompas.com. Retrieved from
Anonymous. (2009a, 9 Mar 2009). Deklarasi Provinsi Cirebon Digelar. Republika Online.
Retrieved from http://www.republika.co.id/berita/shortlink/36041
Anonymous. (2009b, December 14). Jabar Minta Pengecualian Moratorium Pemekaran.
Kompas.com. Retrieved from
oratorium.pemekaran on 30 January 2017
Anonymous. (2010, 27 December 2010). Tuntut pemekaran, warga Cirebon Timur long
march ke Gedung Sate. Detik. Retrieved from http://news.detik.com/berita-jawa-barat/d-
Aspinall, E. (2011). Democratization and ethnic politics in Indonesia: nine thesis. Journal of
East Asian Studies, 11, 289-319.
Aspinall, E. (2013). A nation in fragments: patronage and neoliberalism in contemporary
Indonesia. Critical Asian Studies, 45(1), 27-54.
Aspinall, E., & Fealy, G. (2003). Introduction: Local power and politics in Indonesia:
decentralisation and democratisation. In E. Aspinall & G. Fealy (Eds.), Local power and



politics in Indonesia: decentralisation and democratisation (pp. 1-11). Singapore: Institute

of Southeast Asian Studies.
Assegaf, I. (2002). Legends of the fall: an institutional analysis of Indonesian law
enforcement agencies combating corruption. In T. Lindsey & H. Dick (Eds.), Corruption
in Asia: rethinking the good governance paradigm (pp. 127-146). Annandale, N.S.W.:
Federation Press.
Bakhtin, M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: four essays (C. Emerson & M. Holquist,
Trans.). Austin: University of Texas Press.
Bambang. (2009, 8 March). Masyarakat "Ciayumajakuning" Deklarasikan Provinsi Cirebon.
Antara News (Online). Retrieved from
Bjork, C. (2005). Indonesian education: Teachers, schools, and central bureaucracy. New
York: Routledge.
Block, D., Gray, J., & Holborow, M. (2012). Neoliberalism and applied linguistics. New
York: Routledge.
Blommaert, J. (2010). The sociolinguistics of globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Blommaert, J. (2013). Ethnography, superdiversity and linguistic landscapes: chronicles of
complexity. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Blommaert, J. (2015). Chronotopes, scales, and complexity in the study of language in
society. Annual Review of Anthropology, 44, 105-116.
Blommaert, J., Westinen, E., & Leppnen, S. (2015). Further notes on sociolinguistic scales.
Intercultural Pragmatics, 12(1), 119-127.
Bog/Antara. (2009, 8 March). Masyarakat "Ciayumajakuning" Deklarasikan Provinsi
Cirebon (NYA). Liputan 6. Retrieved from
Bourchier, D. (2000). Habibie's interregnum: reformasi, elections, regiionalism and the
struggle for power. In C. Manning & P. Van Diermen (Eds.), Indonesia in transition:
social aspects of reformasi and crisis (pp. 15-38). London: Zed Books.
Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: a social critique of the judgement of taste. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J.-C. (1977). Reproduction in education, society and culture.
London: Sage.
Brietzke, P. (2002). Administrative reforms in Indonesia? In T. Lindsey & H. Dick (Eds.),
Corruption in Asia: rethinking the good governance paradigm (pp. 109-126). Annandale,
N.S.W.: Federation Press.
Bnte, M. (2009). Indonesias Protracted Decentralization: Contested Reforms and their
Unintended Consequences. In M. Bunte & A. Ufen (Eds.), Democratization in Post-
Suharto Indonesia (pp. 102-123). London: Routledge.
Cameron, D. (2000). It's good to talk. London: Sage.
Carr, E. S., & Lempert, M. (2016). Introduction: pragmatics of scale. In E. S. Carr & M.
Lempert (Eds.), Scale: discourse and dimensions of social life (pp. 1-21). Oakland,
California: University of California Press.
Collins, J., Noble, G., Poynting, S., & Tabar, P. (2000). Kebabs, kids, cops and crime: youth,
ethnicity and crime. Sydney: Pluto Press.
Coppel, C. (1983). Indonesian Chinese in crisis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Cribb, R. (1990). Introduction: Problems in the Historiography of the Killings in Indonesia.

In R. Cribb (Ed.), The Indonesian Killings of 1965-1966: Studies from Java and Bali (pp.
1-43). Clayton, Victoria: Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University.
Das. (2009a). Deklarasi Provinsi Cirebon, Kepala Daerah Ciayumajakuning Absen. Pikiran
rakyat. Retrieved from http://www.pikiran-rakyat.com/jawa-
Das. (2009b, 7 February). P3C Bakal Deklarasikan Provinsi Cirebon (NYA). Pikiran Rakyat
(online). Retrieved from http://www.pikiran-rakyat.com/jawa-
Das. (2010, 15 June). Mayoritas BPD di WTC Menolak Pemekaran JAWA BARAT. Pikiran
Rakyat. Retrieved from http://www.pikiran-rakyat.com/jawa-
Davidson, J., & Henley, D. (Eds.). (2007). The revival of tradition in Indonesian politics: the
deployment of adat from colonialism to indigenism. London: Routledge.
Dick, H. (2002a). Formation of the nation-state: 1930s-1966. In H. Dick (Ed.), The
emergence of a national economy : an economic history of Indonesia, 1800-2000 (pp. 153-
193). Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin.
Dick, H. (Ed.) (2002b). The emergence of a national economy: an economic history of
Indonesia, 1800-2000 Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin.
Elgibrany. (2008). Wacana Pembentukan Provinsi Baru ntura, Mau ke Mana. Retrieved from
Elson, R. (2008). The idea of Indonesia: A history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Errington, J. (1998). Indonesian('s) development: On the state of a language of state. In B. B.
Schieffelin, K. A. Woolard, & P. V. Kroskrity (Eds.), Language ideologies: Practice and
theory (pp. 271-284). New York: Oxford University Press.
Ferguson, J., & Gupta, A. (2002). Spatializing states: toward an ethnography of neoliberal
governmentality. American Ethnologist, 29(4), 981-1002.
Fikri, A. (2009, 14 December). Jawa Barat Minta Pengecualian Moratorium Pemekaran.
Tempo.co. Retrieved from https://m.tempo.co/read/news/2009/12/14/058213746/jawa-
barat-minta-pengecualian-moratorium-pemekaran on 30 January 2017
Fikri, A. (2010, 27 Desember 2010). Jalan kaki 7 hari demi tuntut pemekaran Cirebon.
Tempo. Retrieved from http://nasional.tempo.co/read/news/2010/12/27/178301797/jalan-
Foucault, M. (1978). The History of Sexuality (Volume 1: An Introduction) (R. Hurley,
Trans.). New York: Pantheon books.
Foucault, M. (1995 [1977]). Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison. New York:
Vintage books, a division of Random House, Inc.
Goebel, Z. (2008). Enregistering, authorizing and denaturalizing identity in Indonesia.
Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 18(1), 46-61.
Goebel, Z. (2015a). Language and superdiversity: Indonesians knowledging at home and
abroad. New York: Oxford University Press.
Goebel, Z. (2015b). Language and Superdiversity: Indonesians Knowledging at Home and
Abroad (Vol. Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics). Cary: Oxford University Press.
Goebel, Z. (2017). Imitation, interdiscursive hubs, and chronotopic configuration. Language
& Communication, 53, 1-10.
Goebel, Z., Cole, D., & Manns, H. (2016). Theorizing semiotic complexity: Contact registers
and scalar shifters. In Z. Goebel, D. Cole, & H. Manns (Eds.), Margins, hubs, and
peripheries in a decentralizing Indonesia (pp. 4-16). Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies,
special issue number 162.



Goebel, Z., Jukes, A., & Morin, I. (In press). Linguistic enfranchisement. Bijdragen tot de
Taal, Land- en Volkenkunde, (2017) 173(2-3).
Hadiz, V. (2010). Localising power in post-authoritarian Indonesia: a Southeast Asia
perspective. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Harvey, D. (1989). The condition of postmodernity: an enquiry into the origins of cultural
change. Oxford: Blackwell.
Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hedman, E.-L. (2008a). Introduction: Dynamics of displacement in Indonesia. In E.-L.
Hedman (Ed.), Conflict, violence, and displacement in Indonesia (pp. 3-28). Ithaca, N.Y.:
Cornell University.
Hedman, E.-L. (Ed.) (2008b). Conflict, violence, and displacement in Indonesia. Ithaca, N.Y.:
Cornell University.
Heller, M., Bell, L., Daveluy, M., McLaughlin, M., & Noel, H. (2015). Sustaining the nation:
the making and moving of language and nation. New York: Oxford University Press.
Heller, M., & Duchne, A. (2012). Pride and profit: changing discourses of language, capital
and nation state. In M. Heller & A. Duchene (Eds.), Language in late capitalism: pride
and profit (pp. 1-21). Hoboken: Routledge.
Heryanto, A. (1995). Language development and development of language: The case of
Indonesia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
Hobsbawm, E. (1992). Nations and nationalism since 1780: programme, myth, reality (2nd
Ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Inoue, M. (2006). Vicarious language: gender and linguistic modernity in Japan. Berkeley:
University of California Press.
International Monetary Fund. (2016). International Monetary Fund Factsheet: The IMF and
Good Governance [Press release]. Retrieved from
Irvine, J., & Gal, S. (2000). Language ideology and linguistic differentiation. In P. V.
Kroskrity (Ed.), Regimes of language: Ideologies, polities and identities (pp. 35-84). Santa
Fe: School of American Research Press.
Ivansyah. (2009, 8 March). Presidium Pembentukan Provinsi Cirebon Deklarasikan Provinsi
Cirebon. Tempo.com. Retrieved from
Ivansyah. (2010, 16 June 2010). Wilayah Cirebon Timur belum siap dimekarkan. Tempo
online. Retrieved from
Jones, S. (2004). Political update 2003: terrorism, nationalism and disillusionment with
reform. In M. C. Basri & P. van der Eng (Eds.), Business in Indonesia: new challenges,
old problems (pp. 23-38). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Kahin, G. (1970 [1952]). Nationalism and revolution in Indonesia. Ithaca: Cornell University
Kitley, P. (2000). Television, nation, and culture in Indonesia. Athens: Ohio University
Legge, J. (1961). Central authority and regional autonomy in Indonesia: a study in local
administration, 1950-1960. Ithaca: Cornell Uiversity Press.
Lempert, M. (2014). Imitation. Annual Review of Anthropology, 43(1), 379-395.
Lenhart, L. (1997). Orang Suku Laut ethnicity and acculturation. Bijdragen tot de Taal,
Land- en Volkenkund, 153(4), 577-604.



Liddle, R. W. (1970). Ethnicity, party, and national integration: an Indonesian case study.
New Haven: Yale University Press.
Lindsey, T. (2001). The criminal state: premanisme and the new Indonesia. In G. Lloyd & S.
Smith (Eds.), Indonesia today: challenges of history (pp. 283-297). Singapore: Institute of
Southeast Asian Studies.
Lindsey, T., & Dick, H. (Eds.). (2002). Corruption in Asia: rethinking the good governance
paradigm. Annandale, N.S.W.: Federation Press.
Livingstone, S. (2005). Audiences and publics: when cultural engagement matters for the
public sphere. Bristol: Intellect.
Loven, K. (2008). Watching Si Doel: television, language, and cultural identity in
contemporary Indonesia. Leiden: KITLV Press.
Marcus, G. (1995). Ethnograph in/of the world system: the emergence of multi-sited
ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology, 24, 95-117.
McLeod, R., & MacIntyre, A. (Eds.). (2007). Indonesia: democracy and the promise of good
governance. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Keputusan Menteri Pendayagunaan Aparatur Negara Nomor: 25/KEP/M.PAN/4/2002 tentang
pedoman pengembangan budaya kerja aparatur negara, (2002).
Ochs, E. (1988). Culture and language development: Language acquisition and language
socialization in a Samoan village. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ochs, E., & Capps, L. (2001). Living narrative. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Parker, L. (2002). The subjectification of citizenship: Student interpretations of school
teachings in Bali. Asian Studies Review, 26(1), 3-37.
Pietikinen, S., & Kelly-Holmes, H. (2013). Multilingualism and the Periphery. In S.
Pietikinen & H. Kelly-Holmes (Eds.), Multilingualism and the Periphery (pp. 1-16). New
York: Oxford University Press.
Private Sector Development Unit East Asia and Pacific Region (World Bank). (2001).
Indonesia: World Bank group private sector development strategy (Report No. 21581-
IND). Retrieved from
Pusat Data dan Analisa Pembangunan Jawa Barat (Cartographer). (2011). Jumlah unit usaha,
industri besar di Jawa Barat menurut regeny dan kota tahun 2011 [Number of businesses
and large industries in West Java according to regency in 2011]. Retrieved from
Quinn, G. (2003). Coming apart and staying together at the centre: debates over provincial
status in Java and Madura. In E. Aspinall & G. Fealy (Eds.), Local power and politics in
Indonesia: decentralisation and democratisation (pp. 164-178). Singapore: ISEAS.
Risanto, E. (2009). Deklarasi Pembentukan Propinsi Cirebon. Retrieved from
Rohdewohld, R. (2003). Decentralization and the Indonesian bureacracy: major changes,
minor impact? In E. Aspinall & G. Fealy (Eds.), Local power and politics in Indonesia:
decentralisation and democratisation (pp. 259-274). Singapore: Institute of Southeast
Asian Studies.
Setiawan, H. (2012). Gubernur Cirebon akankah terealisasi [Will we have a governor of
Cirebon]. Retrieved from http://politik.kompasiana.com/2012/09/01/gubernur-cirebon-
Silverstein, M. (1976). Shifters, Linguistics Categories, and Cultural Description. In K. Basso
& H. A. Selby (Eds.), Meaning in Anthropology (pp. 11-56). Albuquerque: University of
New Mexico Press.
Sullivan, J. (1992). Local Government and Community in Java: An Urban Case Study.
Singapore: Oxford University Press.



Sutrisman, D. (2013). Provinsi Cirebon, Sebuah Dilematis [The province of Cirebon is a

dilema]. Retrieved from http://politik.kompasiana.com/2013/01/05/provinsi-cirebon-
Tsing, A. (2005). Friction: an ethnography of global connection. Princeton: Princeton
University Press.
Urban, G. (2001). Metaculture: how culture moves through the world. Minneapolis, MN:
University of Minnesota Press.
Urla, J. (2012). Total quality language revival. In M. Heller & A. Duchene (Eds.), Language
in Late Capitalism: Pride and Profit (pp. 73-92). Hoboken: Routledge.
Van der Aa, J., & Blommaert, J. (2015). Ethnographic monitoring and the study of
complexity. Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies, 123.
Vertovec, S. (2007). Super-diversity and its implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6),
Vickers, A. (2005). A history of modern Indonesia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wallerstein, I. (2004). World-Systems analysis: an introduction. Durham: Duke University
World Bank. (2017). World Bank Development Report: Governance and the Law. Retrieved
from Washington:
Wortham, S. (2006). Learning identity: the joint emergence of social identification and
academic learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.