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Questioning the traditional narrative over contemporary urban development in the Javanese royal city

Ofita Purwani

LSE Research Online Documents on Economics from London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library

Abstract: The recent spectacularized development in the Gulf cities of the Middle East and North Africa has brought into view its contradictory logic of urban change. The cities in that region are highly entrepreneurial, ambitious, and futuristic (Kanna, 2011), yet this happens in and through the long-standing tradition of monarchical power (Molotch and Ponzini, 2019). Royal authority is expressed in modern and globalized forms. Is this the case in other contexts where urban change proceeds in the context of royal influence? This paper addresses this question by looking at the city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Although Indonesia is a democracy, in Yogyakarta, the royal family retains a strong presence in and influence over the city. That influence, however, manifests itself not in a futuristic way, as in the cities of the Gulf, but through traditionalized discourses and forms. Moreover, while urban development in Gulf cities is often legitimized by using a globalized and future-oriented vision, in Yogyakarta, change is legitimized by recourse to traditional narratives set within the symbolic authority of royalty. This paper explores why Yogyakarta’s urban change proceeds in and through this royalistic logic. It does so by examining the historical background and current cultural and socioeconomic context of urban change, including relevant legal and planning issues. I conclude that the persistence of traditionalized reasoning and expression in Yogyakarta is intensified in inverse proportion to the purchase of monarchical power. Although urban change is framed through royal reasoning, that reasoning is itself shaped by funding opportunities, legal constraints, and global and local forces. Unlike Gulf cities, which benefit from oil wealth and deregulated economic zoning, Yogyakarta has limited funding from the central government and limited opportunity for foreign investment. These economic constraints intensify traditionalism and a specific form of urban royal expression, all through the opportunities offered through the cultural economy of heritage.

Keywords: monarchy; royal agency; tradition; urban development; Indonesia (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J01 R14 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 27 pages
Date: 2023-08-01
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cul, nep-sea and nep-ure
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