Urban Heritage on Jakarta’s Riverine Communities – A Seminar by Dr Rita Padawangi (Wed, 5 April 2017)

Speaker: Dr Rita Padawangi (Senior Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute)
Date: Wednesday, 5 April 2017
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS8, Level 6, Conference Room (06-46)


Riverine settlements are commonly found in cities of Southeast Asian and has experienced transformation along with urban developments. Many cities are located along rivers and water bodies because of the importance of water as sources of livelihoods, trade paths, social spaces, and providers of environmental resources. Given the importance of rivers in the history of cities up to the present time, how are riverine communities located in the urban heritage discourse? In this presentation, I rely on data from ethnographic interviews, field observations and subsequent discussions with residents of old riverine settlements in Jakarta to examine how the meanings of the place relate with perceived historical significance and the impacts of urban development. Building-focused official heritage discourse in the city has long emphasized remnants of colonial influence, and heritage preservation is geared towards making economic gains through renovations as efforts to reconcile development and old building structures. In the meantime, rapid development of cities during post-colonial growth of the economy has transformed social, cultural and political relationships between urban life and rivers. Deteriorated urban rivers with high levels of pollution and dense settlements along the banks with poor infrastructure services have become typical challenges in the 1980s, and in many cases these challenges continue until the present time. Regardless of historical significance, riverine settlements are rarely acknowledged as heritage and are therefore more likely to be displaced rather than preserved. Displacement threats and uncertainties as normalcy in historical riverine communities represent contradictions within the official heritage discourse of the city.

About the speaker

Rita Padawangi is a Senior Research Fellow of the Asian Urbanisms Cluster at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Loyola University Chicago where she was a Fulbright Scholar for her M.A. studies. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Parahyangan Catholic University. Her research interests cover the sociology of architecture and participatory urban development. She is the Regional Coordinator of the Southeast Asia Neighborhood Network (SEANNET) program, funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. She is editor of “Cities by and for the People in Asia” (Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming, with Yves Cabannes and Mike Douglass) and “Routledge Handbook of Urbanization in Southeast Asia” (forthcoming). Her paper “Water, Water Everywhere: Toward Participatory Solutions to Chronic Urban Flooding in Jakarta” (authored with Mike Douglass, 2015) won the 14th William J. Holland Prize for Outstanding Paper in Pacific Affairs journal. She is working on her sole-authored book manuscript, titled “Place Power: Civil Societies, Public Spaces, and the Environment in Urban Indonesia.”