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Gaining Respect and Support from Brothers

Similar to Martin, Ray also joined Kera Sakti to gain a network of friends and “brothers” in order to protect and defend himself and his family while also learning to master the healing skills needed to cure his loved ones. During the research period, Ray was under house arrest after his involvement in a violent group fight with another perguruans members.

I was defending my friend. As a good man and good friend, you must help

when your friend is in trouble. I join Kera Sakti, it really boosts my courage

and masculinity (Ray, interview on August 10, 2014).

His involvement there somehow allows him to feel useful and helpful as he joined the fight to defend friends, resulting in the sense of bravery and loyalty within the community in the space contestation. By doing so, he also secured his position as a warga (citizen) of the perguruan.

The marginalized conditions inside the camp area resulting in a modest living makes Ray feel inferior. Because he dropped out during his first year of junior high school, he does not have many options for finding a job. Sometimes he works as a casual laborer or helps his parents plow rice fields, but most of the time, he just stays at home. Ray has a girlfriend from Kupang city who often helps him buy things. His girlfriend’s family disapproves of him because he is an East Timorese ex-refugee, not well educated, jobless, and has a criminal record. Therefore, he has never gone to her house to meet her parents. This inferiority surely strengthens Ray’s longing to occupy sites or spaces in the social field. He needs to be respected and to be feared by others. In Kera Sakti, he gets that respect, and he is perceived as a loyal member who defends the perguruan’s honor.

Ray is not the only youth who has ever been caught by police for violent involvement. Although youths know that fighting is bad for their criminal records, quitting a perguruan is often not an easy option. Every “enemy” from the other perguruans knows that Ray is a Kera Sakti’s member, and they will keep chasing after him even if he decided to quit. Here it is possible to see that joining a perguruan is not only to gain recognition and to be involved in an act of contestation but also to be political. In line with Sassen’s notion that “being political means being recognizable in social terms” (2003, 51), involvement in a perguruan and getting recognition from society for proving oneself as an eligible man and reliable person somehow becomes a way to gain space in the contestation for citizenship.

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