Migration and Tourism in the Indonesian Borderlands

Since the late 1960s the Indonesian island of Batam has been transformed from a sleepy fishing village to a booming frontier town, where foreign investment, mostly from neighboring Singapore, converges with inexpensive land and labor. Indonesian female migrants dominate the island’s economic landscape both as factory workers and as prostitutes servicing working class tourists from Singapore. Indonesians also move across the border in search of work in Malaysia and Singapore as plantation and construction workers or maids. Export processing zones such as Batam are both celebrated and vilified in contemporary debates on economic globalization. The Anxieties of Mobility: Migration and Tourism in the Indonesian Borderlands, by Johan A. Lindquist, moves beyond these dichotomies to explore the experiences of migrants and tourists who pass through Batam. Johan Lindquist’s extensive fieldwork allows him to portray globalization in terms of relationships that bind individuals together over long distances rather than as a series of impersonal economic transactions.

“A fine-grained picture of working class Indonesians and Singaporeans who travel in opposite directions in pursuit of jobs, money, sex, drugs, legitimacy, and bright lights. They cross multiple barriers—national, urban, moral, gender, and religious—in order to attain some measure of individual success in the globalizing economies that link Singapore’s development with Indonesia’s supply of cheap migrant workers. The ethnography is rich and fascinating, and it captures a complex shifting world with delicacy, grace, and clarity.” —Aihwa Ong, University of California, Berkeley

October 2008 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3315-2 / $22.00 (PAPER)