Lea Borkenhagen

Biography

Lea Borkenhagen completed her Ph.D. in July 2003. Her dissertation, 'Minahasa's Clove Agriculture: The Church and the Production of Power through the Indonesian State,' examined the unequal access to and accumulation of wealth from clove resources in Minahasa, Indonesia, in the 1990s. She asked: 1) how did specific people in a community gain access to and accumulate wealth from agricultural resources? And, 2) what accounted for accumulation of resource wealth by elites in the periphery of a country with a highly authoritarian state? She answered these questions through an explanation of: the formation of social institutions through the church and through trade connections with Chinese-Indonesian merchants, clove crop characteristics, novel patterns of patronage between groups of individuals and central state patrons, the historic position of the Minahasan church as a local quasi-state, and the importance of social relations in shaping economic decisions. In the 1970s and 1980s, clove growing boomed across Indonesia, supplying raw materials to the clove cigarette industry, which, by the 1990s, represented the second largest source of tax revenue for the Indonesian government. During these boom years, smallholder farmers kept most of the profits from the highly lucrative crop, but in the 1990s, only a few elites profited from cloves. Minahasan elite farmers, who were powerful in their own community in part because of their ties to the church administration, worked with Chinese-Indonesian traders in Minahasa and proposed state regulations that, once implemented in the 1990s by powerful central state patrons, were to cause a disparate access to wealth. The Evangelical Church of Minahasa (GMIM) became a channel of access to clove resources and to positions of power within the local state bodies regulating cloves. State and church both provided positions of legitimacy from which elites enacted programs for accumulating clove wealth. In her work on this topic, she argues for the importance of analyzing social relations and the exercise of power in understanding phenomena otherwise considered in purely economic terms. Her work contributes to discussions on how local institutions mediate the power of the state in extracting resources. And it shows the ecology and characteristics of a crop are significant in shaping the kinds of social institutions that can be employed in its management, production and trade. Lea's engagement with Indonesia started as an undergraduate when she conduced research in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) on the role of orangutans and gibbons in seed dispersal and rainforest regeneration. Lea's work before starting her PhD at Berkeley in 1996 was in West Africa. She was a Program Officer at the Biodiversity Support Program in Washington, D.C. where she managed a project that aimed to foster communication on successful conservation practices among conservation project managers at the local level. She had gained some insight into conservation in West Africa, particularly the intersection of people's livelihood needs and national park conservation, while on a 1993 Fulbright Scholarship studying the management and marketing of non-timber forest products by women from different ethnic groups on the border of Tai National Park, Cote d'Ivoire 1993-1994. Lea is interested in gender issues as they intersect with conservation more broadly, stemming primarily from a concern both for the environment and for equity. In 1991 she organized a conference on Women and Biodiversity whose recommendations were incorporated into the Global Biodiversity Strategy used at UNCED in 1992.

Fellow at a Glance

Fellowship Year:
1999
Academic Background:
University of California Berkeley, Ph.D.
Current Position:
Programme Development Manager
Oxfam
Expertise:
Address:
274 Banbury Road
Oxford, OX2 7DZ
Phone:
(++44) 1865 312 158

A vibrant community of environmental leaders