The Creation and Re-creation of the Adat Village in West Sumatra, Indonesia

Adri Febrianto, Semiarto Aji Purwanto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over time, village governance in Indonesia has undergone many changes. In the pre-colonial era, villages were organised according to the local customary law called ‘adat’, and today, those same villages are part of the modern state. Suharto’s centralised New Order regime led to dramatic changes in village governance, as all villages were arranged uniformly in a system called ‘desa’. Changes to the law after Suharto left office were marked by regional autonomy, which allowed local governments to manage their own territories in accordance with local conditions. Some desa chose to return to an adat village system. The village dynamics have, more recently, been heightened with the passing of the Village Law, which allocates funds to villages to manage independently. This has resulted in the subdivision of villages, in order to acquire more funds. In this paper, we argue that the trend in village splitting is not necessarily related to changes in the law or political events. Based on ethnographic research conducted in a village in West Sumatra, this paper concludes that the dynamics of returning to the customary order, and the decisions to divide villages are influenced by factors of history, tradition and local culture, and by a momentum not previously experienced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-613
JournalInternational Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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