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Nils Bubandt

Professor and local researcher-in-charge of the AURA project

Two cases form the basis for my investigation into the political-spiritual-natural worlds that are:

1. A mud volcano in East Java. Nicknamed Lusi, the mud volcano erupted in 2006 flooding nine villages and forcing some 75,000 people from their homes. The disaster has caused an estimated 2.2 billions dollars. Some say the eruption was a natural event, provoked by one of the many earth quake that regularly shake the Rim of Fire of which Indonesia forms part. Others believe the eruption was a blowout provoked by faulty drilling practices of the oil company that explored for petroleum nearby. Somewhere between a natural and an anthropogenic event, Lusi exemplifies the dilemmas that haunt the Anthropocene. It challenges easy distinctions between natural and man-made as well as an all-too facile opposition between politics and spirits.  The oil company that many hold accountable for the mud volcano is Lapindo Brantas, a company that is controlled by one of the candidates in Indonesia’s upcoming Presidential election and which for nearly a decades as evaded legal liability  Deprived of compensation, many locals feel the volcano, like volcanoes throughout Indonesia, somehow speaks back to politics and corruption. Fieldwork in this world of volcanoes, gas, spirits, and politics began in 2012 and will continue for the duration of the project.

           Mud Volcano Lusi

            Mud Volcano Lusitypo3/alt_doc.php?edit[tt_content][11239]=edit&columnsOnly=imagecaption[imagecaption_position]&noView=0&returnUrl=/people-and-projects/nils-bubandt/


2. Raja Ampat is an archipelago off the coast of Papua. A new regency near the oil town of Sorong, Raja Ampat sits in the middle of a coral sea with a marine diversity that may be the highest in the world. A series of marine protected areas were set up in 2006 by the Indonesian government to protect this ‘Last Paradise on Earth’ and keep the seascape attractive for dive-tourists. Local people, meanwhile experiment with their own partly overlapping forms of nature protection while they wait for the end of the world. The project traces the millenarianisms of conservation, tourism and local belief in this politically unstable and biologically rich part of Indonesia  Fieldwork into the world of coral reefs, dive tourism, nature protection, political tension, and bio-social millenarianisms began in 2014.

               Raja Ampat Islands Sea

                   Raja Ampat Islands Seatypo3/alt_doc.php?edit[tt_content][11239]=edit&columnsOnly=imagecaption[imagecaption_position]&noView=0&returnUrl=/people-and-projects/nils-bubandt/


Bubandt, N. (2014). Democracy, Corruption and the Politics of Spirits in Contemporary Indonesia. London, Routledge.