The Political Economy of Tobacco in Indonesia: How “Two Fires Fell Upon the Earth”




Mitchell, Melissa C.

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By tracing the history of tobacco in Indonesia, while focusing on production and consumption, tobacco provides an avenue of exploration into processes of Dutch colonialism and the trajectories that have been set forth, creating the present-day health crisis. This multifaceted history has shaped contemporary processes, revealing Indonesia as a country with one of the largest populations of tobacco consumers. Taking into consideration history, political economy, symbolic and gender frameworks, the impacts of intensive tobacco production under the Dutch regime are explored by outlining the shift from local consumption of the betel quid to a preference for tobacco among males, leading to the emergence of kretek cigarettes. Alternative modes of discourse, modernity, nationalism, independece and gender ideologies have thus been produced in Indonesia. To adequately address these dynamic tobacco-related processes, issues of health must be intertwined with that of symbolic, social, cultural, economic, and political significations.



Indonesia, Tobacco, Political economy, Anthropology, Betel, Colonialism