Small islands in a large archipelago state: Examining small islands’ peripherality and governance relations in Riau Islands Province, Indonesia

Narotama, Mohamad Rachmadian (2022). Small islands in a large archipelago state: Examining small islands’ peripherality and governance relations in Riau Islands Province, Indonesia. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Small islands are often linked to peripherality, as they are surrounded by water, detached from the mainland, small, and often remote. For this reason, many small islands have gained special recognition by those who govern them, often providing islands special autonomy or dedicated development programmes. However, not all small islands are equally seen as distinct in their peripherality. This thesis focuses on small islands’ peripherality in Indonesia; a large developing archipelago state of more than 17,000 islands, where small islands’ distinctiveness and peripherality is easily taken for granted. Only recently have small islands been discussed at national level, many debates and uncertainty surround how to manage small islands, especially regarding whether it should be a concern of central government or decentralised to local governments by increasing autonomy and resources.
This thesis aims to examine how different governance relations and island geographies shape peripherality in Indonesia’s small islands, using the case study of Riau Islands Province that consists of around 2,000 islands. To examine complex relations between islandness (what is considered distinct geographical and experiential characteristics of islands), governance and peripherality, this thesis develops a conceptual framework built upon an island assemblage approach and adopts an analytical lens from theories on peripherality. With this approach, the thesis has been able to analyse multiple relations that shape and change peripheralities in small islands.
The research finds that even with the advantages of being strategically located along the Malacca Strait and having natural resources, the Riau Islands Province still suffers from the general challenges of small islands: high transport costs, challenges in economic growth and public service provision. But islandness alone is not the cause of peripherality, rather, it is due to how governments undermine small islands in general policies, development planning and everyday governance practice that they become peripheralised. The findings show how changing central-local government arrangements and attracting state-led development can make a positive change in certain contexts of peripherality while creating new problems, as these changes follow generalist mainland-based mechanisms. The thesis argues the need of a new approach for small island governance; based on the thesis findings, some suggestions include providing more autonomy for small island governments especially in marine affairs, adopt an island-sensitive approach in bureaucracy and protect islands from general policies that may disadvantage small islands. This thesis shows that by understanding the relation island geographies, governance relation with peripherality in more detail, a better approach in governing islands can be achieved.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Funders: Other
Other Funders: Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government


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