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Indonesia

Marriage And Parenthood, Family And Gender, Inheritance


The Republic of Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation, has 203 million people living on nearly 1,000 permanently settled islands. Java and Madura hold about 60 percent of the nation's population. Some 200–300 ethnic groups with their own languages and cultures inhabit the nation, some numbering in the millions, some in the thousands. The national motto, Unity in Diversity, expresses a hope that the multicultural nation can build a common national culture overlaying ethnic and regional ones.

For more than 2,000 years trading ships have sailed between India and China via the equatorial spice islands. From about 100 C.E. to 1400 C.E., Indian culture was spread widely and deeply by traders and others, though there was never imperialism from India. Kingdoms developed, whose rulers adopted Hinduism and Buddhism. From about 1200 C.E. to 1600 C.E., Islam was brought by traders and teachers from India and the Middle East, and today Indonesia has the most Muslims of any nation. The Portuguese and Dutch came to trade in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By the nineteenth century the Dutch colonial government controlled Java and had links to rulers on other islands. In the early twentieth century Netherlands Indies expanded from Sumatra to West New Guinea, the present borders of Indonesia. Nationalist movements arose, led by intellectuals and religious leaders representing various cultures of the archipelago. The Dutch remained in control until 1942 when the Japanese occupied the archipelago. They attempted to return in 1945 when Indonesians declared independence, but they met armed resistance and the Indonesians and Dutch for five years. The Dutch withdrew in 1950 and the Republic of Indonesia was born (Rickleffs 1993).

Kinship is a primal loyalty of great importance throughout Indonesia. Obligations to kin can be onerous, but they provide vital support in various aspects of life. Government provides little social security, unemployment insurance, or elder care: these are provided by family and kin networks. This also leads to familial and ethnic nepotism, patronage, and paternalism in public and private sectors. Many Indonesian ethnic groups have clans and lineages based upon descent. Patriliny is most common, though matriliny is found in a few societies, such as the Minangkabau of West Sumatra (Blackwood 2000). Some societies, such as the Javanese, have bilateral kinship systems of the type found in the United States.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural Aspects