Dissociated Identities

Ethnicity, Religion, and Class in an Indonesian Society
Rita Smith Kipp
An analysis of how Indonesia's policies on culture, religion, and class affect a particular ethnic group--the Karo.


Placing theories of ethnicity and religious pluralism in relation to theories of the state, Rita Smith Kipp in Dissociated Identities situates a particular Indonesian people, the Karo, in the modern world. What the state's policies on culture and religion mean to Karo women and men, who now live in cities throughout Indonesia as well as in their traditional Sumatran homeland, becomes clear only by looking at the way Karo families and communities contend with religious pluralism, with the pull of tradition working against the wish to be modern and new wealth differences in their midst. Newly discrete facets of Karo selfhood---ethnic, religious, and economic---replicate in microcosm the cross-cutting political tensions of the nation-state, revealing both why the New Order has enjoyed great stability over almost three decades and the potential sources of disruption that may lie ahead.

Dissociated Identities will find wide appeal among political and social scientists as well anthropologists studying Southeast Asia.

"What emerges from Kipp's account . . . is a richly textured and theoretically sophisticated account of cultural change in modern Indonesia. While illuminating the contests and values that shaped state policies, Kipp tells an important story about local solidarities. The lessons are relevant for understanding the culture and politics of nation-making elsewhere. This study thus provides a fine example of just how to 'bring the state back in' without making it the only thing in sight." --American Anthropologist

". . . ground-breaking in its exploration of the interplay between religious pluralism, class differences and ethnic identity. . . . This book will be of interest to all Indonesianists." ---Antara Kita

Rita Smith Kipp is Professor of Anthropology, Kenyon College.

Praise / Awards

  • "The sophistication of Kipp's analysis lies in its going beyond her subtle exposition of Karo identities elaborated over time in multiple urban and rural settings to ask why these identities take the form they do, channelled primarily through ethnicity with religion differentiated and class consciousness suppressed. Her lively account thus serves us all as a model of argument, built on the twin pillars of ethnographic documentation of increasingly diverse Karo lives and illuminating analysis of the broader economic and political forces shaping the ideological context that infiltrates those lives."
    --Penelope Graham, Monash University, Oceania, 2000

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 320pp.
  • maps, photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1996
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08402-9

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  • $39.95 U.S.