11.30 Engineering Identity in a New Master-Planned City: Fantasy Islam in Indonesia’s Dompak Island
After struggling from over three hundred and sixty years of colonialism, Indonesia, similarly to many newly independent states, attempted to reconstruct its national identity through the adoption of cultural and heritage revival programs aimed to unify the nation. Since Indonesia is comprised of over three hundred different ethnic groups, this nationalist project relied on centralization and consolidation of political power, which resulted in tension between the central state and certain outlying provinces. The elites of these provinces both contested their lack of economic and political influence, and challenged the attempts of the national government to construct a unified national identity. After the fall of the Suharto regime, Indonesia underwent a process of decentralization that gave local ruling elites the opportunity to construct provincial identities that rejected both the colonial and national past by appropriating their regional cultural heritage.
An example of this trend that reflects the use of heritage revival to construct new forms of cultural identities is seen in Dompak, a master-planned island city under construction. Builders of Dompak have adopted a “fantasy Islam” architectural idiom as a method to materialize an “imagined community” as a strategy to consolidate the political power of ruling elites while marginalizing local minorities. Dompak was created as the new administrative capital of Indonesia’s recently formed Riau Islands Provinces, located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula between Sumatra and Singapore. It represents a growing urban-centric development trend in the Global South where new cities are supposedly created as catalysts for economic growth while strategically projecting a particular identity to investors and citizens. Despite the province’s ethnically and religiously diverse population, it has been purposely ignored in the “new built heritage” of Dompak.
In this paper, I will analyze Dompak as “new built heritage” in the context of Riau Islands Province’s cultural history, socio-political development, and vernacular built environment. First, I will explore the resurgence of Islam and the reemergence of a “pure Malay” identity in the search for a uniquely provincial culture. Second, I will discuss how an Arabized version of “fantasy Islam” is used as a political tool for maintaining power, and how this ideology is manifested in Dompak’s architecture. Third, I will argue how the adoption of an exclusively Islamic ideology by urban planners and ruling elites of Dompak marginalizes non-ethnic Muslim minorities, and examine how this identity contested by members of the local community. Shaped by the concept of “geographies of exclusion,” my research probes the stakeholders who have the power to influence Dompak’s cultural politics and exclude alternative notions of heritage. This paper aims to contribute to the emerging literature on postcolonial urbanism in the Global South, wherein cultural and heritage revival programs are strategically adopted as both instruments of power and to strengthen neoliberal urban growth agendas.