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Modern Jere: Language revitalization and eco-conservation education

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Item Summary

Title: Modern Jere: Language revitalization and eco-conservation education
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: The Modern Jere project drew its inspiration from workshop sessions at a 2014 seminar hosted by Universitas Khairun, where it became clear that physical and cultural environments of the Moluccas face common pressures and that conservationists share common goals with local educators, community leaders, and regional stakeholders. Discussion topics began to evolve from how to enact legislation to what can inspire community members themselves to act.

As in many parts of Indonesia, the region is undergoing a steady increase in population and development programs that do not always consider environmental effects1. The current population is over 2.5 million, with more than a million in North Maluku alone2. The region hosts over 130 language communities3, but like the area's fragile ecosystems, they are severely endangered4.

People of the Moluccas have a connection to the ocean rooted both in history and spirituality. The earliest inhabitants of the Maluku Islands are likely to have arrived by sea at least 55,000 years ago5, and as in numerous regions throughout Southeast Asia, they have traditional resource-management strategies6. These are known as keramat in Indonesian and jere in North Maluku. But rapid cultural shifts are threatening the jere system itself along with the ecosystems it is tasked to protect. The Modern Jere project is built on the hypothesis that the jere structure is capable of protecting itself; whereas traditional jere delineate geographical areas; the Modern Jere project extends the boundaries into cultural and behavioral choices.

Rules governing jere are contained within regional oral traditions; the project partners linguists and conservationists with cultural practitioners (jere observing fishermen) to document the marine regions between Ternate–Tidore and Halmahera (North Maluku's most populous region), and local teachers lead events alongside cultural practitioners and concerned stakeholders where youth learn indigenous language related to jere and also how jere ecosystems are put at risk by modern lifestyle choices, both tangible (e.g. dumping waste) and intangible (e.g. abandoning indigenous languages and customs). Because the jere system resonates strongest within the context of local tradition, the project includes cultural stewardship among its tenets--particularly linguistic stewardship.

The Modern Jere project is gaining regional attention, and one major outcome to date has been a discernible shift in perceived relevance of indigenous tongues, as participants observe cultural practitioners teaching on equal footing alongside international experts. This paper presents a detailed description of the project, the results, and its direction forward.


1. Jepson, Paul, et al. "The end for Indonesia's lowland forests?." Science 292.5518 (2001): 859-861.

2. Indonesia. Badan Pusat Statistik. Hasil Sensus Penduduk 2010 Data Agregat per Provinsi. N.p., Aug. 2010. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.

3. Lewis, M. Paul. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 16th ed. Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2009. Online version:

4. Florey, Margaret. "Community Initiatives towards Language Renewal among Moluccan Migrants in the Netherlands." Language endangerment and language maintenance: An active approach. Ed.Bradley, David, Ed.Maya Bradley, eds. Routledge, 2013. 257-271. Print.

5. Spriggs, Matthew, Sue O’Connor, and Peter Veth. "The Aru Islands in perspective: a general introduction." The archaeology of the Aru Islands, eastern Indonesia (2005): 1-23.

6. Davary, Bahar. "Islam and Ecology: Southeast Asia, Adat, and the Essence of Keramat." ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts 20.1 (2012): 12-22.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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