Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-4hcbs Total loading time: 0.4 Render date: 2021-12-03T14:12:48.330Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

11 - The Rebel State in Society: Governance and Accommodation in Aceh, Indonesia1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2015

Ana Arjona
Northwestern University, Illinois
Nelson Kasfir
Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
Zachariah Mampilly
Vassar College, New York
Get access



Rebel organizations cannot be understood solely in terms of their coercive capacities. Many seek to displace the state and usurp its functions. How do rebel groups establish systems of governance? Applying Migdal’s state in society approach, I show how rebel governance can evolve through alliances with societal forces. I do so by focusing on the evolution of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in Indonesia. GAM came to govern a handful of districts by allying with two groups – rural Islamic teachers (ulama) and urban student activists – whose goals and identities were in many ways at odds with its own. These rebel state/society alliances were mutually beneficial. Ulama and activists gained security and were able to pursue their agendas through GAM, which in turn gained wider support and the capacity to govern the local population. These alliances were also transformative, resulting in significant convergence in terms of the identities and goals of all parties.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Aspinall, Edward 2007. “From Islamism to nationalism in Aceh, Indonesia,” Nations and Nationalism 13:245–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aspinall, Edward 2009. Islam and nation: Separatist rebellion in Aceh, Indonesia. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Barter, Shane Joshua 2008. “Resources, religion, and resistance: The sources of conflict in Aceh,” Small Wars and Insurgencies 19:3961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barter, Shane Joshua 2011a. “Ulama, the state, and war: Community Islamic leaders in the Aceh conflict,” Contemporary Islam 5:1936.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barter, Shane Joshua 2011b. “The free Aceh elections? The 2009 legislative contests in Aceh,” Indonesia 91:113–30.Google Scholar
Barter, Shane Joshua 2013. “State proxy or security dilemma? Understanding anti-rebel militias in civil war,” Asian Security 9:7592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barter, Shane Joshua 2014. Civilian strategy in civil war: Insights from Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. New York: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crouch, Harold 2007. The Army and Politics in Indonesia. Singapore: Equinox Publishing.Google Scholar
Drexler, Elizabeth F. 2008. Aceh, Indonesia: Securing the insecure state. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
Evans, Peter B., Rueschemeyer, Dietrich, and Skocpol, Theda (eds.) 1985. Bringing the state back in. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
International Crisis Group 2009. “Indonesia: Deep distrust in Aceh as elections approach,” Asia Briefing 90.
Kalyvas, Stathis 2006. The logic of violence in civil war. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kell, Tim 1995. The roots of Acehnese rebellion, 1989–1992. Cornell: Modern Indonesia Project.Google Scholar
McGibbon, Rodd 2006. “Local leadership and the Aceh conflict,” in Reid, Anthony (ed.). Verandah of violence: The background to the Aceh problem. Singapore: Singapore University Press, pp. 315–59.Google Scholar
Mampilly, Zachariah 2011. Rebel rulers: Insurgent governance and civilian life during war. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Migdal, Joel S. 1988. Strong societies and weak states: State-society relations and state capabilities in the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Migdal, Joel S. 2001. State in society: Studying how states and societies transform and constitute one another. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Migdal, Joel S., Kohli, Arul, and Shue, Vivienne (eds.) 1994. State power and social forces: Domination and transformation in the Third World. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, Michelle Ann 2008. Rebellion and reform in Indonesia: Jakarta’ s security and autonomy policies in Aceh. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Pye, Lucian 1956. Guerrilla communism in Malaya: Its social and political meaning. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Schlegel, Stuart A. 1979. “Technocrats in a Muslim society: Symbolic community in Aceh,” in Davis, Gloria (ed.). What is Modern Indonesian Culture? Athens: Ohio University, Center for International Studies Southeast Asia 52; pp. 232–47.Google Scholar
Schulze, Kirsten E. 2004. The Free Aceh Movement (GAM): Anatomy of a separatist organization. East-West Center Policy Studies 2.Google Scholar
Siegel, James T. 2000. The rope of God. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sjamsuddin, Nazaruddin 1985. The republican revolt: A study of the Acehnese rebellion. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.Google Scholar
Sulaiman, M. Isa 1997. Sejarah Aceh: Sebuah gugatan terhadap tradisi [The history of Aceh: A critique of tradition]. Jakarta: Pustaka Sinar Harapan.Google Scholar
Tilly, Charles 1990. Coercion, capital, and European states, AD 990–1990. Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, Inc.Google Scholar
Wood, Elisabeth Jean 2003. Insurgent collective action and civil war in El Salvador. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats