Indonesia has experienced sustained economic growth in recent decades and is now a middle-income country with over 100million of its citizens entering the middle class. Despite these impressive gains, 28 million citizens remain impoverished with as many as 40million vulnerable to falling into poverty. Some of the poorest communities live on the coast pursuing low technology artisanal fishing livelihoods. In this presentation, I explore patterns of poverty and livelihood insecurity in two Sama Bajo coastal settlements of Southeast Sulawesi. Sama bajo livelihoods are shaped by seasonal patterns of fishing and marine based harvesting and trading. A strong feature of these communities is the presence of enduring patron-client relationships (punggawa –sabi) that provide forms of economic support and unequal co-dependence founded on debt. Findings of the study highlight the contribution of this key relationship to both the persistence of poverty in these communities but also opportunities for enhanced incomes and relative prosperity through fishing among resident households.

Andrew McWilliam is Professor of Anthropology in the School of Social Science at Western Sydney University, Australia. He is a specialist in the anthropology of Southeast Asia and has continuing ethnographic research interests in Eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste as well as Northern Australia. His current research work includes the role of customary governance in post-conflict Timor-Leste; studies of maritime livelihoods and the politics of social protection in Indonesia; and work in northern Australia with indigenous native title claims and cultural heritage protection. He is Editor of The Australian Journal of Anthropology (TAJA). Recent book publications include a new monograph entitled, Post-Conflict Social and Economic Recovery in Timor-Leste: Redemptive Legacies (Routledge 2020), and a co-edited volume, The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Timor-Leste (2019 with M. Leach).

The seminar is co-organized by the Department of Social Anthropology and the Forum for Asian Studies, Stockholm University.