Organized Panel Session
While salt is becoming an artisanal good in places across the globe, state intervention in Indonesia has meant a sharp turn towards industrialization. Smallholders produce enough salt for people’s consumption needs, but the demand of Indonesia’s growing industrial sector seems insatiable. Industry begets industry as the central government rolls out its dual-pronged plan for achieving salt self-sufficiency and sovereignty: intensification and expansion. The intensification strategy seeks to increase the yields of small scale salt farmers by introducing technologies like geomembrane liners, while expansion involves acquisition of vast plots of land that will be cleared then utilized for industrial salt operations. In collaboration with several government ministries, Indonesia’s State Salt Company promises to serve the public interest while making a profit. I argue, however, that “state salt” has instead served to tip the balance in favor of capital and Indonesia’s political elite, and caused disruption in peasant-proletarian communities and coastal wetland ecosystems. Drawing upon ethnographic engagement with salt making communities in landscapes that form where terrestrial and maritime worlds meet, this paper examines how efforts to make state salt play out in practice. I focus on villages in West Timor, a target region of the state-led initiative, to track the impacts of different kinds of salt on human-nonhuman populations. I detail social transformation and ecological disturbance with the help of figures from the Timorese landscape, including ash salt and marsh plants.