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The regulating agency of official law, by which I mean law promulgated by a government which derives its authority from the state it represents, is not uncontested. (1) In most states the medium of law is applied to provide official norms of (il)legality to society yet, as is a central theme in anthropology of law, other normative systems may exist in addition, or even in competition, with this official normativity. (2) Law gains meaning from what it authorizes as much as from what it forbids, making law and its negation opposites that define and construct one another (Anders and Nuijten, 2007:12). As the rule of law principle maintains that none is above the law (cf. Carothers, 1998:9697), governments included, control over which norms are law as well as over their actual meaning are highly valuable strategic assets in power struggles. In this article I analyze the discourse used by Dayak in East Kalimantan to substantiate customary claims to natural resources. This discourse refers to multiple legalities--official law as well as indigenous norms--and is sustained by references to Indonesian nationalism and regional community. Although these varied factors seem incompatible, they carry a long way in practice. As legal arguments are entwined with local needs and ethnic interests, unraveling this Gordian knot is a daunting task for those government officials that have to deal with the claims. A purely legal analysis hence is not sufficient in settling the matter. My interest lies with the conscious and precise mobilization of Dayak indigeneity in arguing exclusive rights and maintaining the continued validity of norms alternative to those of official law. I maintain that these appeals to indigenous norms and the normative plurality that is invoked are politicized in a way that exceeds the direct needs of most of the people in whose name they are fielded, but that serves to effectively secure a zone of autonomy. Nonetheless this is a dangerous strategy to follow. Ethnic relations form the fibres that make up the Dayak cords in the knot, but what keeps them from untwining? Is ethnic unity a strong enough base to successfully claim exclusive rights and the validity of private norms in twenty-first century Indonesia? How do Dayak get away with such claims in the national context? My main question thus is how the strategic mobilization and deployment of Dayak ethnicity in the obtainment of exclusive rights functions, and what its results are. The issue whether such deployment is in accordance with the law or can be seen as "just" forms the broader background against which the subject is considered.

January 1
Borneo Research Council, Inc
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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