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The Anxieties of Mobility

Migration and Tourism in the Indonesian Borderlands

Johan A. Lindquist

Publication Year: 2009

Since the late 1960s the Indonesian island of Batam has been transformed from a sleepy fishing village to a booming frontier town, where foreign investment, mostly from neighboring Singapore, converges with inexpensive land and labor. Indonesian female migrants dominate the island’s economic landscape both as factory workers and as prostitutes servicing working class tourists from Singapore. Indonesians also move across the border in search of work in Malaysia and Singapore as plantation and construction workers or maids. Export processing zones such as Batam are both celebrated and vilified in contemporary debates on economic globalization. The Anxieties of Mobility moves beyond these dichotomies to explore the experiences of migrants and tourists who pass through Batam. Johan Lindquist’s extensive fieldwork allows him to portray globalization in terms of relationships that bind individuals together over long distances rather than as a series of impersonal economic transactions. He offers a unique ethnographic perspective, drawing together the worlds of factory workers and prostitutes, migrants and tourists, and creating a compelling account of everyday life in a borderland characterized by dramatic capitalist expansion. The book uses three Indonesian concepts (merantau, malu, liar) to shed light on the mobility of migrants and tourists on Batam. The first refers to a person’s relationship with home while in the process of migration. The second signifies the shame or embarrassment felt when one is between accepted roles and emotional states. The third, liar, literally means "wild" and is used to identify those who are out of place, notably squatters, couples in premarital cohabitation, and prostitutes without pimps. These sometimes overlapping concepts allow the book to move across geographical and metaphorical boundaries and between various economies.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

I have always been attracted to reading acknowledgments, in part because they begin to describe the sociology of the book and its author. As I find myself in the situation of needing to write my own acknowledgments, however, it is proving very difficult to do so. The reason, of course, is that over the years there have been countless people who have offered support, even ...

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pp. 1-19

Before dawn Chandra has already showered and is ready to take his bag and leave. Left behind are a thin mattress and two cardboard boxes that function as storage space. The photos of Indonesian and Western pop and movie stars, cut from old newspapers, cover the wall but are barely visible from the light of the single bulb that dangles from the ceiling. ...

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1. Borderland Formations

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pp. 20-42

The lights from the Singapore skyline are still visible in the background when Pak Padil takes me out in his motorboat at dawn. In his broad Malay dialect he begins a lament that he obviously has spoken before. “When I was young,” he tells me, “there were fish everywhere. It was easy to make a living. Now the water is polluted and the fish are gone.” Born ...

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2. The Diluted Enclave

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pp. 43-70

Wati gets off the ojek (motorcycle taxi), pulls a one-thousand-rupiah bill out of her pocket, and pays the driver. It is just past seven and the morning air is still cool. She has just finished a twelve-hour shift at a Singaporean electronics company in the Batamindo Industrial Park, where she is in the middle of a terminal two-year contract that began in 2002. ...

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3. The Economy of the Night

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pp. 71-97

It is nearly midnight as I reach the bottom of the hill leading up to Ozon, the largest disco on Batam. Along the busy road a series of small stalls sells everything from noodle soup to cigarettes and condoms. At the top of the hill outside the club the road is packed with taxis and ojek (motorcycle taxis) waiting for passengers who will pay exorbitant fares ...

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4. Fantasy Island

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pp. 98-117

It is Friday night and Andi is taking his weekly forty-minute ferry ride from the World Trade Center in Singapore across the border to the Indonesian island of Batam. He has just gotten off work at one of Singapore’s docks, where he loads containers that will be shipped around the world. Upon arrival and after passing through immigration and customs ...

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5. Revolving Doors of Dispossession

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pp. 118-143

Lina grew up in a village in South Sumatra, a few hours’ drive from the city of Palembang. The daughter of impoverished farmers, she received only a few years of schooling and, at the age of fifteen, following her parents’ prompting, was married to a man twice her age. Lina moved with him to Palembang, but the marriage ended a couple of years later. ...

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6. Between Stress Beach and Fantasy Island

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pp. 144-152

Along the Batam coastline that faces the Singapore skyline is an area inhabited by liar bars and housing, which is surrounded by empty lots and half-finished buildings. It is an area that is—as the Batam Industrial Development Authority would phrase it—“not yet developed.” Migrants call this Pantai Stres, or Stress Beach. From the shacks that serve as makeshift ...


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pp. 153-170


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pp. 171-186


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pp. 187-193

E-ISBN-13: 9780824864583
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824832018

Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 436453244
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Anxieties of Mobility

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Subject Headings

  • Women migrant labor -- Indonesia -- Batam Island.
  • Migrant labor -- Indonesia -- Batam Island.
  • Globalization -- Economic aspects -- Indonesia -- Batam Island.
  • Globalization -- Social aspects -- Indonesia -- Batam Island.
  • Marginality, Social -- Indonesia -- Batam Island.
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