I-4. “Border Control and Frontier Society in Indonesia in the “Reformation” Period” (H28 FY2016)

  • Project Leader:Nagatsu Kazufumi (Toyo University, School of Sociology)
  • Collaborators:Okamoto Masaaki (Kyoto University, Center of Southeast Asian Studies)
  •                              Ono Mikiko (Kyoto University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies)
  •                              Ito Makoto (Tokyo Metropolitan University, Graduate School of Himanities)
  •                              Fukutake Shintaro (Sophia University, Faculty of Global Studies)
  •                              Kamata Mayumi (Nagoya University of Commerce & Business, Faculty of Economics)
  •                              Koizumi Yusuke (University of Tokyo, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)
  •                              Honna Jun (Ritsumeikan University, College of International Relations)
  •                              Riwanto Tirtosudarmo (Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Research Center for Society and Culture)
  •                              Alex John Ulaen (Sam Ratulangi University, Faculty of Letters)
  •                              Hosobuchi Michiko (Tokyo Metropolitan University, Graduate School of Sociology)
  •                              Kato Kumiko (Sophia University, Graduate School of Global Studies)

Outline of Research

Since the 1990s, insular Southeast Asian countries have undergone considerable changes in terms of border control. Border control and immigration policies were drastically revised when the Cold War ended and the region began to experience transnational flows of people, commodities and information. At the same time, regional governments tightened regulations for border-crossings to stem such flows. This research project will examine the changes in border controls and the dynamics of border societies in Indonesia after the 1990s from a comparative perspective. The study focuses on three transnational coastal societies. A literature survey and fieldwork will be conducted at the Jakarta Liaison Office of CSEAS and research sites in Indonesia.


Although many studies have been carried out about the changes in border controls in Indonesia, attention paid to the resulting dynamics in the societies that are spread across national borders has been limited. The project attempts to understand these dynamics by focusing on three dimensions: life zone, network, and ethnic identity.

In an era of reformation after 1998, Indonesia became rapidly involved in the economic globalization. The Indonesian government began to facilitate transnational flows of people, commodities and information. At the same time, it also tightened regulations to stem uncontrolled transnational flows of people, commodities, and information. Thus, the government interventions changed the local border societies more directly than previously. How have the people in the border societies reorganized their life zone, network, and ethnic identity? This is the basic question of this project.

The project attempts to compare the dynamics of transnational societies in three borders zones: the Melaka Straits, Sulu-Makassar Sea, and Timor Sea. This approach will reveal both general as well as area-specific dynamics. More generally, this project is expected to contribute to Southeast Asian Studies by providing new insights into the multi-layered contexts and social meanings of national boundary, highlighting perspectives from the people living in border areas.


A ferry boat bridging Malaysia and Indonesia on the northeastern coast of Borneo.
The boat plies between Tawau in Sabah, Malaysia and Nunukan in North Kalimantan, Indonesia. Tawau is one of the most popular entrance of Malaysia among the Bugis in Sulawesi.

Sailing boats of the Bajau called lambo in Rote, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia The Bajau used to make a fishing voyage with these boats from Rote to the Australian waters. Since the Australian government tightened its border control in the 2010s, some of them stopped the voyage and left the boats unattended on the shore.