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Indonesia: Acehnese
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Sources of Local Identification > Peoples of Sumatra > Acehnese

ACEHNESE


Situated in the Special Region of Aceh the northernmost provincial-level unit of Sumatra, the more than 3.4 million Acehnese are most famous throughout the archipelago for their devotion to Islam and their militant resistance to colonial and republican rule. Renowned throughout the nineteenth century for their pepper plantations, most Acehnese were rice growers in the coastal regions in the early 1990s.

Acehnese do not have large descent groups; the nuclear family consisting of mother, father, and children is the central social unit. Unlike the Javanese or Balinese family, the Acehnese family system shows marked separation of men's and women's spheres of activity. Traditionally, males are directed outwardly towards the world of trade. In the practice of merantau -- going abroad or away from one's birthplace -- young adult males leave their homelands for a time to seek their fortune, experience, and reputation through commerce. This may involve travel to another village, province, or island. This maturation process among males is viewed as growing out of the domestic female-dominated world of sensory indulgence and into the male world of reasoned rationality, whose practice is expressed through trade. One model of Acehnese family life is that a woman sends a man out of the house to trade and welcomes him back when he brings home money. When he has exhausted his money, she sends him out again. Meanwhile, women and their kin are responsible for working the fields and keeping the gardens and rice fields productive.

This oscillating pattern of migration encountered some difficulties in the 1980s as increasing numbers of men failed to return to the Acehnese homeland, but instead remained and married in remote locations, such as Jakarta and Kalimantan. In addition, northern Sumatra experienced important changes because of the influx of temporary workers seeking employment in the oil and timber industries.

Data as of November 1992




Last Updated: November 1992


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Indonesia was first published in 1993. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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