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Drivers of State Formation in Sulawesi, Indonesia


Ian Caldwell
University of Leeds

Panel Abstract

Sulawesi is the fifth largest island in the Indonesian archipelago, with a land area two-thirds that of the UK. The island is home to societies varying from sophisticated, Islamized urban elites to animistic, forest-dwelling agriculturalists. Depending on where the borders are drawn, some 60 to 80 languages are spoken on the island by a population of more than 15 million. The island has four distinct limbs or peninsulas and a central highland massif with peaks of more than 2,500 meters in height.

Sulawesi has a remarkable archaeological and historical record that makes it one of the world’s best natural laboratories for the study of the development of complex societies. Political centralization and associated social and cultural developments began some three centuries before the arrival of Europeans. Early sixteenth-century Portuguese visitors to the southwest peninsula reported a flourishing agricultural landscape dominated by warring kingdoms. Elsewhere were found simpler societies ranging from chiefdoms to tribes without centralized institutions, some of which were evolving into more complex units as late as the nineteenth century.

Research over the last 30 years by archaeologists, historians, geographers and anthropologists has made it possible to chart the origins and development of complex societies across the island from c.1200 to the late nineteenth century. The panel is the first formal attempt to provide a theoretical overview of the development of complex societies in the period after c.1200 C.E. The panelists, all of whom are specialists on the island, draw on data from North, Central, South and Southeast Sulawesi.


Paper 1: Family relations in the founding of Wajoq

Kathryn Wellen

Numerous scholars have noted the importance of family relations to traditional Southeast Asian politics (Andaya, Day) as well as to the politics of South Sulawesi in particular (Bulbeck, Caldwell).  This paper systematically explores the role of marriage and family relations in the founding of Wajoq, a Bugis polity in South Sulawesi.  Wajoq is a confederative polity, bound together by tradition, a governing council, a paramount ruler and, it is believed, family relations.  This paper uses information from the Wajorese chronicles and GIS to map out the family relationships and interrogate their significance.  It explores the frequency of marriage relations among the core subpolities of Wajoq as opposed to marriage relations between the core polities and the vassals and examines the political ramifications of these relationships.


Paper 2: The Role and Function of Gaukang Objects in South Sulawesi               

Stephen Druce

Several accounts by Dutch colonial officials dating to the nineteenth and early twentieth century report on the apparent significance and role of certain objects in Bugis and Makasar society, known as gaukang or kalompoang, that were regarded as supernatural. These reports give the impression that whoever found such objects was made leader of their community but that the ultimate ruler was the gaukang objects themselves. Based largely on these accounts, Leonard Andaya put forward an influential gaukang model theory for the development of complex society in South Sulawesi (The Heritage of Arung Palakka, 1981). In this model, as the population increased, further gaukang communities grew from the original but remained tied and loyal to the germinal community. William Cummings (Making Blood White; Historical Transformations in Early Modern Makassar, 2002) has even claimed that among the Makasar it was not until the advent of writing in the sixteenth century that the ruling elite were able to eclipse the power of the kalompoang and usurp their position as the centre pieces of Makasar society.

In this paper, Andaya’s gaukeng/kalomoang model is analyzed against a body of historical, archaeological and ethnographic data from early South Sulawesi. While I refute the claim that these objects as causal factors for the development of complex society, I note their importance in society and discuss their functions.


Paper 3: Colin Renfrew’s Multiplier Effect in Early South Sulawesi                              

Ian Caldwell

In his seminal work The Emergence of Civilisation: The Cyclades and the Aegean in the Third Millennium B.C. (1972, 2010), the renowned British archeologist Colin Renfrew sets out a theory for the development of complex cultures which he calls the multiplier effect. He argues that innovations in one aspect or subsystem of a culture, such as agriculture, can enhance and affect, through positive feedback, other cultural systems, such as craft production or social organization. Renfrew explains the development of complex societies as arising out of cultural innovations that sparked interchanges of reciprocity between various cultural systems, ultimately cultivating expansion – the multiplier effect.

The target of Renfrew’s theory was the transition from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean. But the theory is a general one and can be applied also to the transition from simple to complex chiefdoms, as occurred on the southwestern peninsula of the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia after c.1200 C.E. Renfrew’s approach has the advantage of sidestepping (and at the same time allowing incorporation) of competing theories of state formation, such as voluntary versus conflict, conquest versus circumscription, or leadership versus class-conflict models of social and political development. In this paper I demonstrate how Renfrew’s multiplier effect offers valuable insights into the historical and cultural forces that drove the transition in South Sulawesi from simple chiefdoms c.1200 to the emergence by 1600 of sophisticated, literate polities with a working knowledge of knowledge of ballistics and the Galilean telescope.


Paper 4: Drivers of State Formation: Colonial Clues to Indigenous Dynamics?      

David Henley

When attempting to identify the drivers of indigenous state formation in Southeast Asia, a lack of contemporary sources accurately describing the chronological course of events by which power came to be concentrated. This often makes it difficult to get beyond the observation that political centralization is broadly correlated with commerce, with surplus agricultural production, with institutionalized religion, and with technological change. Cause and effect remain hard to disentangle, and the relative roles of consensus and coercion in the process of political integration unclear. The expansion of colonial states, by contrast, is often well documented, and in ways which do make it possible to reconstruct motivation and causality. This paper investigates the possibility of using colonial expansion as a model or analogy for indigenous state formation, and thereby throwing new light on the political history of the pre-colonial period in Sulawesi and elsewhere.