The cultural politics of mining and natural disaster in Indonesia: by fire and sword

Jeff Lewis, Belinda Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Natural disasters are inevitably the outcome of cultural agonisms. The cultural politics of natural disasters are shaped by competing claims and conceptions of nature . Recent disasters in Indonesia are directly linked to these contending conceptions and the ways in which different social groups imagine risk and reward. The Sidoarjo volcanic mudflow of 2006 represents a volatile and violent exemplar of contending cultural and economic claims. Like other disasters in Indonesia and elsewhere in the developing world, this natural disaster is characterised by differing conceptions of nature as cultural tradition, divine force, and natural resource. A new extractive project in East Java is exhibiting similar economic and cultural agonisms, particularly around the notion of development, environment, self-determination, and tradition. This paper examines the disputes over meaning associated with natural disasters in contemporary societies, and the ways in which they are related to human culture, social organisation, and hierarchical systems of violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-40
Number of pages18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • cultural politics
  • culture
  • Indonesia
  • media
  • mining
  • natural disaster
  • nature
  • resilience
  • risk
  • violence
  • vulnerability

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