Professor Yuhki Tajima Delivers a Book Talk on Communal Violence in Indonesia

At the book launch event hosted by the Asian Studies Program and the Mortara Center for International Studies, Professor Yuhki Tajima in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service discussed his latest book, titled The Institutional Origins of Communal Violence: Indonesia's Transition from Authoritarian Rule (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

In his book, Dr. Tajima addresses an important but understudied research puzzle: why are treansitions from authoritarian rule often marked by spikes in communal violence? Through examining Indonesia's recent transition to democracy, Dr. Tajima develops a new theoretical explanation for this phenomenon that also accounts for why some communities are vulnerable during such transitions while others are able to maintain order. He argues that repressive intervention by security forces in Indonesia during the authoritarian period rendered some communities dependent on the state to maintain intercommunal security, whereas communities with a more tenuous exposure to the state developed their own informal institutions to maintain security. As the coercive grip of the authoritarian regime loosened, communities that were more accustomed to state intervention were more vulnerable to spikes in communal violence until they developed informal institutions that were better adapted for less state intervention. To test the theory, Dr. Tajima employs extensive fieldwork in, and rigorous statistical evidence from, Indonesia as well as cross-national data.

Dr. Tajima's work carries significant implications for policymakers. His research suggests that when states decide to intervene against communal violence, there must be efforts to build informal institutional capacities in anticipation of a future weakening or withdrawal of the state. Furthermore, policymakers can anticipate location of violence during transitions and inform communities about how security conditions will change. Finally, this book contains a message that security forces should be trained to deal with conflicts and crowd control that are consistent with greater sensitivity to human rights.

In addition to this book, Dr. Tajima has authored articles in American Journal of Political Science, Journal of East Asian Studies, and The World Bank Indonesian Social Development Papers. His research examines communal violence, insurgencies, post-war societies, criminal gangs, and the political economy of development using qualitative (extensive fieldwork) and quantitative (experimental and quasiexperimental) methods. His work has been supported by The World Bank, The Asian Development Bank, Innovations for Poverty Action, the Institute for Global Conflict and Cooperation, and the Pacific Rim Research Program. Dr. Tajima holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy and an M.P.A. in International Development from Harvard University, and a B.A. in Physics from Swarthmore College.