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The Anxieties of Mobility

The Anxieties of Mobility: Migration and Tourism in the Indonesian Borderlands

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  • Book Info
    The Anxieties of Mobility
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6458-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
    (pp. VII-IX)
  4. Introduction
    (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. Chandra knows that his girlfriend, with whom he has been living for the past three months, will be devastated when she returns in a few days from a short trip to her village. However, he feels ashamed...

  5. 1 Borderland Formations
    (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 in the early 1920s on a small island just off the coast of Batam, Pak Padil was a fisherman for a large part of his life, but these days he has become connected...

  6. 2 The Diluted Enclave
    (pp. 43-70)

    Wati gets off theojek(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. As she exits the park through the main gate and crosses the busy street crowded with taxis, a young man, acalo,or tout, waves aggressively at her, trying to get her attention. For each taxi he...

  7. 3 The Economy of the Night
    (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 andojek(motorcycle taxis) waiting for passengers who will pay exorbitant fares as they come out of the club. As usual, Aryo is leaning against the side of his taxi waiting for his Singaporean clients who are inside. He is one of the lucky ones who...

  8. 4 Fantasy Island
    (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, Andi is surrounded bycalos(touts), but in the crowd he quickly finds his usual taxi driver, who takes him straight to the main town of Nagoya, where Sri, his Indonesian girlfriend, is waiting for him. Andi has rented a...

  9. 5 Revolving Doors of Dispossession
    (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. Unwilling to return home with nothing and still angry with her parents, she found a job cleaning in a hotel and a year later married a man of her own choosing. They had two children before...

  10. 6 Between Stress Beach and Fantasy Island
    (pp. 144-152)

    Along the Batam coastline that faces the Singapore skyline is an area inhabited byliarbars 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 make-shift bars the skyline of Singapore appears to be just within reach; on a clear day one can identify specific buildings without great difficulty. As Saskia Sassen (1996, 23) has put it, the post-industrial city is the “urban form that dominates...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 153-170)
    (pp. 171-186)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 187-194)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 195-198)