Decentralization, identity construction, and conflict : education under Aceh's special autonomy : a dissertation presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This study contributes to the existing literature on decentralization by exploring the relationship between decentralization, identity construction and conflict in the context of decentralization reform in Indonesia. Using the concept of bottom-up autonomy as its theoretical lens, this study explores the impact of political decentralization on the autonomy of Aceh and examines the notion that autonomy can contribute to peaceful management of intra-state conflict. The study involves research into education stakeholders in the two districts of Aceh and uses the qualitative methods of pairwise ranking, semi-structured interviews, observation, and document analysis.
More specifically, the impact of decentralization on the autonomy of Aceh is investigated through perceived changes in three areas of education: the curriculum, the structure, and the financing of education. The results demonstrate that the autonomy agreed between Aceh and the Indonesian government has contributed to extensive bottom-up autonomy for Aceh by accommodating the distinct identity of the Acehnese and by providing a political framework for local empowerment. Through providing frameworks for the accommodation of local identity and for local empowerment, the form of bottom-up autonomy resulting from political decentralization has offered negotiated avenues for managing intra-state conflict peacefully. These frameworks have hopefully created common ground for both parties to sustain peace.
However, this study also revealed that there is potential for internal discontent within Aceh society as a result of perceived unequal access to resources. This study does not, therefore, emphatically conclude that political decentralization necessarily reduces conflict. Instead, this research suggests that political decentralization which results in extensive bottom-up autonomy may be a tool for promoting a more peaceful management of conflict between regions and the central state than would otherwise be possible.