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Protecting Self and Families

The first story comes from Martin, 25 years old, who has been a member of Kera Sakti since he was 17. His first motivation to join a perguruan was to be able to heal his relatives and himself from natural illness or illnesses resulting from black magic sent by enemies.

From Kera Sakti, I learned the ability to control my internal force. I can remove illness with prayer, a glass of water and special oil from perguruan.

I have tried it to myself and to help my sick mother. It worked (Martin, interview on July 12, 2014).

There is a kind of necessity for protection for the East Timorese and the “locals” in Naibonat, especially considering the prevalence of superstitious beliefs as well as the intense mistrust among society members because of years of war in East Timor. In this case, an ability to heal their loved ones and to protect them from any outside threat is a satisfactory reason for the youths to join, and it reflects their will to have a significant role within the society.

This reason becomes more interesting in the case of Martin, who claims his involvement in Kera Sakti could bring him a broader brotherhood both in Indonesia and Timor Leste, increasing his confidence in his abilities if he got attacked by strangers or enemies:

I am not sure if I can find a job in Indonesia, I might go back to Timor Leste. I have been there for [a] couple of months and not everyone was happy to see me. Some saw me as a traitor. But as I joined Kera Sakti, brothers will be everywhere. I attended the Kera Sakti’s practice in Dili so I got to know people. They said we are brothers and they will protect me there (Martin, interview on July 12, 2014).

Martin’s motivations show his strategy to establish social capital for his future as he uses perguruan to broaden his network. The social link here should be not only interpreted as a means to obtain physical security but also to get a job and safeguard his sociocultural position.

In this case, he performs “tactical bricolage” (Gay in Robins et al. 2008) in which he mixes any strategy at all possible levels to ensure his position in Indonesia as well as in Timor Leste. Martin significantly sets himself as a client of the broad patron network of Kera Sakti by being loyal to the organization, with the hope of gaining protection in return. His choice to join perguruan can be seen as act of contestation in the limited space of citizenship in Indonesia, an attempt “to capture the potential for acts that cannot be contained or even necessarily imagined by existing conceptual vocabularies” (McNevin 2011, 97). It happened as a result of the spectrum of status categories developed in society, which in this case is having the status of warga baru that makes East Timorese unrecognizable (McNevin 2011).

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