Picture by Indriani Widiastuti

Our Project in Sumatra (2010 – 2012)

Our Project in Sumatra consisted of three interrelated layers of main activities: Research Training for Young Researchers/Activists, Joint-Research on citizenship and democracy in six small towns in Sumatra, and Documentary Video Production on the issues of citizenship in Bagansiapiapi, Riau province. All of those activities have been implemented quite succesfully, and we are very pleased to report that the realization of the outputs of the activities have, in some aspects, even been exceeding our stated targets. We designed the program as a multi-year activities. Figure 1 shows us the flows of activities directed toward the outputs that we have managed to achieved in 2010-2012.

Figure 1. Three Layers of Activities and The Outputs


Research Training for CSO’s Activists

We began our program with Research Training, for young researchers and/or NGO activists.The material for the workshop had been designed and refined by our team from November 2010 to January 2010. From January 4, 2011-February 10, 2011 we put up the recruitment announcement in our website, posted it in several mailing lists and also sent e-mails to our NGO partners and networks. Until the last day of submission, we received 30 applications from various organizations. Based on the quality of concept-paper that the applicants had submitted, and other criteria for the applicants, the committe decided to choose only 8 (eight) participants for the program. One of them, Budi Laksana from Serikat Nelayan Indonesia (SNI) Cirebon withdrew the application, because of the tight schedule between his organization and upcoming research training.  As a result, there were 7 (seven) candidates who would enroll the training.


Table 1. Trained CSOs’ Representative in Sumatra

 No. Name Institution Trained in
 1. Muhammad Syuib Hamid The Aceh Institute Research Training for NGO
 2. Tengku Basrie People’s Crisis Center (Aceh) Research Training for NGO
 3. Mega Nofria IRSAD – Padang Research Training for NGO
 4. Firdaus PBHI – Padang Research Training for NGO
 5. Afifuddin The Globe Journal Research Assistant in Pidie
 6. Rinal Wahyudi Universitas Andalas Research Assistant in Bukittinggi
 7. Akos GP Ansor Rokan Hilir Research Assistant in Bagansiapiapi
 8. Nukman Badan Bahasa Provinsi Jambi Research Assistant in Batanghari
 9. Wiwin Prabudiani LPM Universitas Sriwijaya Research Assistant in Prabumulih
 10. Chintila Ismi STKIP Budi Daya Research Assistant in Binjai


Training Research Workshop was held on February 22-24, 2011 in Gadog, Bogor. All participants were given time to make a presentations on their concept-paper and the draft of research design they had prepared for the training. The objective of the workshop is to deepen participants’ understanding on the issues they are going to further investigate through the research, the relevancy of the issue with the general theme of the program, and to give them the clear theoretical and methodological perspective in addressing the issues. To achieve such objectives, we invited along some highly regarded scholars from Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University and the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies to involve in the critical discussion with the participants. Facilitated by seasoned facilitators, the participants went through several stages in this workshop, higlighted in formulating the research problem, literature review and making an answer sheet, which would be very useful in their research and lead them to a systematic report writing.

After the workshop, they had to revise their research draft and started the field research on their respective hometown within 25 days (March 2011). We gave them another one month (from March 26, 2011-April 25, 2011) to finish their research report. In between the fieldwork, our senior researcher and officer had severals interim meeting with the participants in 4 (four) cities (Aceh, Padang, Makassar and Jakarta) to discuss their findings and give them inputs. Then all participants went together again in Report Writing Workshop, May 3-5, 2011. Unfortunately, an Aceh participant, Muhammad Ali Syuib Hamid (from Aceh Institute) were being eliminated from the program, since he did not submit any research report. At the end of the report writing workshop, we gave each participants a questionaire to fill and got feedbacks about our program.

The Cities of Sumatra



The Joint Research on the cities in Sumatra program was commenced in December 2010 until the second week of March 2011 with literature review and formulating research design draft. We decided to emphasize more on weekly pre-research discussion to control the draft’s quality. Starting from March 23, 2011-May 2, 2011, we already held 5 (five) consecutive weekly meetings. We decided early on that the locations for the research will be in five small cities in Sumatra, i.e., Sigli/Pidie District (Aceh), Binjai (North Sumatra), Bagansiapiapi (Riau), Bukittinggi (west Sumatra), Batanghari District (Jambi) and Prabumulih (South Sumatra). The research’s focus is on active citizenship on each district or municipality in Sumatra, specified on its problems. Pre-research workshop was held on May 9-10, 2011 in Cimanggis, Depok, in which each researcher was presenting their own case based by location. The field research itself would take 40 days straight and each researcher could choose their date of departure voluntarily between May 17, 2011 to July 15, 2011. Supervision had been done in three locations: Prabumulih (June 6-8, 2011), Bagansiapiapi (June 16-20, 2011) and Binjai (July 7-15, 2011). In addition, we also held an interim meeting in Pekanbaru (June 21-23, 2011), where all researchers gathered to discuss their early findings.


Table 2. Titles of Researchers’ Work Compiled in Kota-kota di Sumatra

 No. Name Location Title
 1. Sudiarto Sigli, Aceh Kota Dagang Tanpa Cina: Menyusutnya Kekuatan Ekonomi Pedagang Cina di Sigli dan Beureunuen, Kabupaten Pidie, Aceh
 2. Firdaus Binjai, Sumatra Utara Relasi Etnik dan Identitas Kewargaan di Kota Binjai
 3. Kristina Viri Bukittinggi, Sumatra Barat Pengelompokan Pemukiman Warga Berdasarkan Etnis dan Agama di Kota Bukittinggi, Sumatra Barat
 4. Muhammad Subhi Bagansiapiapi, Riau Proyek Identitas dan Ketimpangan Representasi: Dinamik Relasi Antara Kelompok Etnis Cina dan Melayu di Kota Bagansiapiapi
 5. Radjimo Sastro Wijono Batanghari, Jambi Kabupaten Batanghari: Transformasi Kota Tradisional dan Ikatan Politis Jambi-Kerinci
 6. Indriani Widiastuti Prabumulih, Sumatra Selatan Prabumulih 2001-2011: Sepuluh Tahun Perjalanan Menjadi Kota Mandiri


Documentary Video

We started the program in April 2011, and chose Bagansiapiapi as the location for shooting the footage in Bagansiapiapi due to its historical and cultural unique characteristic in relation to the problem of “being Indonesian” for the Chines ethnic group living in the city long before the historical invention of the country of Indonesia. Pre-production workshop had also been held altogether with research workshop in Cimanggis (on May 9-10, 2011). After the film team presented their drafts in the workshop they had to go back to the drawing board for revision and refinement on May 18, 2011 until June 8, 2011. The shooting was divided into two interrelated parts. For the first part, it was taken in Bagansiapiapi on June 11-23, 2011 and the second part was on September 2011. The result is Orang-orang Kota Api (A Documentary video edited by Hafiz Rancajale and Directed by Dirmawan Hatta based on the intermingling relationship among different social groups in Bagansiapiapi, Riau). The video visually captures the dilemma faced by Chinese communities in Bagansiapiapi when both the government and Melayu people forced forward the Melayu culture as the “common culture”. On the other hand, since the collapse of the local fishery industry decades ago they also had to face economic uncertainty and had forced some of them to flee to other cities like Jakarta or Pekanbaru. Despite being the first inhabitant in the now widely known as Bagansiapiapi, the Chinese community is now situated between the rock and the hard place.

Book Launching, Public Discussion, and Video Screening

To disseminate the outputs of our program, we had planned to organize a book launching, public discussion, and video screening in Jakarta. But on the ground that we have to “give back” what we have “taken”, we asked ourselves a question of why the book and video narrating Sumatran people is not publicly discussed in the land from where all the data have been collected. We then decided to change the venue from Jakarta to Medan, North Sumatra. We organized the book launching and public discussion in two respected campuses in Medan: at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences of Universitas Sumatra Utara (USU) on June 19, 2012, and; at the Center for Language and Culture of Institut Agama Islam Negeri Sumatra Utara (IAIN-SU) on June 20, 2012. Both campuses are prominently known for its reputations in intelectual history in Sumatra Utara.

  • The book launching in USU was convened in association with Laboratorium Antropologi Fakultas Ilmu Sosial dan Ilmu Politik (FISIP) USU. Over 150 people consisted of, among others, students and lecturers of FISIP USU, Dinas Kebudayaan dan Pariwisata Sumatra Utara, Balai Arkeologi Medan, NGOs, highschool students and journalists attended the discussion. The resource persons for the discussion were Prof. Dr. Badåaruddin (the Dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences USU), and Mariana Makmur, MA (Anthropologist). Lister Berutu, MA (Head of Laboratorium Antropologi FISIP USU) was the moderator. Sudiarto and Kristina Viri were representing the Interseksi’s research team in the forum.
  • In IAIN Sumatra Utara, the event was attended by more than 100 participants from wide range of background: scholars, religious leaders, students and lecturers from universities in Medan, and journalists from local media. Dr. Phil. Ichwan Azhari (a senior historian from Pusat Studi Sejarah dan Ilmu Sosial Universitas Negeri Medan UNIMED), and Dr. Zainul Fuad (Head of Pusat Bahasa dan Budaya IAIN-SU) were the main speakers discussing the book, while Kristina Viri and Sudiarto again were representing Interseksi’s research team. Azwani Lubis, MA (lecturer of IAIN-SU) was the moderator.
  • In both the FISIP USU and IAIN, we screeened our documentary video, “Orang-orang Kota Api” before the the book launching and public discussion commenced. After wacthing the video, local film makers from SOI (Suara Orang Indonesia) were interested in making similir project in a smaller scale, i.e., the city of Medan.

In each campus we gave a very attractive promotional price for those who want to buy our book. And the result was quite satifactory: over 200 copies of Kota-kota di Sumatra: Enam Kisah Kewarganegaraan dan Demokrasi were sold in each campus, making it the most succesful book launching that we have ever had. As complimentary, we distributed other 100 copies for both the poeple who helped us realized the launching and discussion in FISIP USU and IAIN Sumatra Utara. In addition, before the book launching began, we screened the documentary film on Bagansiapiapi entitled, Orang-orang Kota Api. It caught audience’s attention in no time, since there are not much coverage on Bagansiapiapi. When we moved to another venue in IAIN Sumatera Utara, much to our surprise we got an acknowledgement from a senator (DPD RI), Parlindungan Purba, who was giving us congratulation flowers as compliment. We have no relationship in anyway with the senator nor we know him personally and, as have been the case with many politicians, the flowers might conceal a political motive. Those do not really matter to us, but what is important is that the flowers can also be seen as a sign of recognition to our efforts. Meanwhile, the Dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences of Medan-based Universitas Sumatra Utara, Prof. Dr. Badaruddin, publicly offered us an opportunity to organize another joint-research with researchers from the faculty. On the other hand, the Head of Pusat Bahasa dan Budaya IAIN Sumatara Utara discussed the possibility of cooperation in furthering our publication efforts. He optimistically described his ambition to publish an international journal and that Interseksi could contribute to the effort. Listed below are the media coverage on our program during the reporting period:

  • Harian Analisa (June 25, 2012) article titled“Indriani Widiastuti: Perjuangan Saya Menulis Buku Luar Biasa”
  • Harian Analisa (June 27, 2012) article titled “Peluncuran Buku ‘Kota-kota di Sumatra’ di IAIN-SU dan USU”
  • Antara Foto Website (June 19, 2012) 2 photos
  • Antara Sumut Website (June 19, 2012) 1 photo
  • Radio Kiss FM Medan, appeared on their website (June 2012), news article titled “Tumbuhkan Minat Menulis di Kalangan Ahli Antropologi, FISIP USU Luncurkan Buku”
  • In addition, as we mentioned in interim report, during the fieldwork one of our researcher in Batanghari, Radjimo Sastrowijono had been interviewed by a local journalist. This coverage appeared in Kantor Berita Nasional Antara (Antara News) website (May 22, 2011), titled “Suku Kerinci Lebih Tua dari Suku Inka”. Interview materials was related to his research on relation between ethnics Kerinci and Melayu Jambi in Batanghari, Jambi.