Colloquium MSc thesis Janse Heijn

Published on
March 19, 2014

You are hereby kindly invited to the presentation of the MSc thesis of Janse Heijn entitled ‘How and why Dayaks resist palm oil expansion’. 

The colloquium will be held Friday, 21 March at 11.00, room C84, Leeuwenborch, Hollandseweg 1, Wageningen

Supervisor: Otto Hospes

Titel: Coping with the traps of modernity - Why and how Dayaks in West Kalimantan resist palm oil expansion?


In Indonesia, the rapid expansion of oil palm plantations has led to numerous disputes between local communities, corporations and governments. While corporations often succeed in transforming the landscape with or without the permission of local people, this thesis presents a case where the people  unanimously refused to admit palm oil corporations on their land. This work examines why these people refused to enter the palm oil scheme and how they attempt to reinforce their position. In the analysis we made use of theories on Political Ecology and the relation between maps and laws.

The case shows that the Dayaks’ current way of using the land provides them with food, a cash income, medicine and insurance. Especially original forest is covering many of these demands. Stories told by family members and on television have added to the mistrust of oil palms.

To strengthen their legal and political position, the Dayaks entered in partnership with an environmental non-governmental organization that tries to preserve endangered animals in Kalimantan. By doing so, the Dayaks not only altered their image of indigenous people, but also got indirect access to policymakers on higher levels. By making use of information technology like GPS and satellite imagery, they back up their claims to land and encourage district governments to enforce existing law.

The case shows that resistance against palm oil is not only based on land use preferences but on deeper desires to freedom and sovereignty over lifestyle. While the dispute remains unsolved it is clear that, in order to stand a chance, the Dayaks must actively search for recognition.

Key wordsLandscape Change, Palm Oil Expansion, Counter-mapping, Information Technology, Modernity