Publication details

Acehnese culture(s). In: Graf, Arndt/Schröter, Susanne/Wieringa, Edwin (Hg.): Aceh. History, politics and culture. Singapur: ISEAS, S.157-179.

Book chapter
Author(s): Schröter, Susanne
Year of publication: 2010

Abstract: Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam is a multicultural province within a multicultural state. Hence, its political leaders not only face the need to integrate ethnic and cultural diversity into a regional framework, but also have to define Aceh’s role within the Indonesian nation. During its violent past which was characterized by exploitation and military oppression, there were good reasons to emphasize sameness over diversity and to build up the consciousness of a unified Acehnese identity. From both an emic and an etic perspective, it is today widely accepted that there is such a thing as a homogeneous Acehnese culture which is rooted in a glorious, though troublesome, history of repression and rebellion and shaped by a strong Islamic piety. Even if it is true that Acehnese history has created a strong regional identity, it must not be forgotten that people living in this area belong to various ethnic and cultural groups and that they represent a rich variety of different cultures rather than simply a single homogeneous culture. As a matter of fact, the practises and discourses of Islam here also vary depending on the cultural background of the people. As elsewhere in Indonesia and beyond, world religions have to adapt to local customs, have to be appropriated by the local people, and have to be indigenized. This is the reason why adat still continues to play a role in every local context, even if it has been treated with suspicion in many parts of Indonesia since the Dutch colonial administration began using it as a counterforce against Islam in order to implement their divide-and-rule strategy. With this article, I wish to shed some light on the complexities of Acehnese culture, as it encompasses numerous very distinct local cultures and this reflects on the general significance of culture for the construction and reconstruction of post-tsunami Aceh.

Keywords: Aceh, Plurality, Multiculturalism, Ethnic Diversity

Subject(s): ethnology

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