Flood interventions and how they reinforce and challenge social divides in Jakarta

Dr Roanne van Voorst

Published in the latest issue of Urban Forum, 'Juxtapositions in Jakarta: How Flood Interventions Reinforce and Challenge Urban Divides' by Roanne van Voorst traces the interplay of spatially, socially and legally juxtaposed differences between different groups of Indonesia’s residents.

The three groups that the paper studies are:

  •  a group of riverbank settlers in Jakarta
  • political decision-makers and urban planners that evict this particular riverbank settlement
  • a group of Jakartan academics, architects and journalists that got involved in these interventions.

The dynamics between and within these groups are examined through a case study in a riverbank settlement, where inhabitants are not only at risk of regular flooding but also of evictions.

Floods can act as an accelerator to reinforce and challenge how urban divides are shaped

The analysis combines the notion of juxtapositions with a ‘revelatory approach’ towards disaster. The notion of juxtapositions makes clear how urban divides are shaped, and how they, in turn, produce ideas and practices of citizenship in Jakarta. The revelatory approach to disasters helps to show that floods can function as an accelerator to both reinforce and challenge these juxtapositions, thus also changing citizenship ideas and practices.

The analysis reveals on the one hand that floods and interventions deepen socioeconomic inequalities in an already highly unequal city. However, on the other hand, they also trigger collective mobilization of evictees as well as unprecedented cooperation between this particular group of riverbank settlers and more resourceful members of Jakarta’s wider society.

This eventually results in successful contestation of evictions through court and other claims to citizenship.