Post-Conflict Ambon: Forced Migration and the Ethno-Territorial Effects of Customary Tenure

In post-conflict contexts characterized by large-scale migration and increasing levels of legal pluralism, customary land tenure risks being deployed as a tool of ethno-territorialization in which displaced communities are denied return and secure land rights. This thesis will be illustrated through a case study of the Indonesian island of Ambon where a recognition of customary tenure — also called?adat?— was initiated in 2005 at the end of a high-intensity conflict between Christians and Muslims. Although a system of land tenure providing multiple forms of social security for the indigenous in-group,?adat?in Ambon also constitutes an arena of power in which populations considered as non-indigenous to a fixed historical territory are pushed into an inferior legal position. The legal registration of customary tenure therefore tends to be deployed to settle long-standing land contests with a growing migrant community, hereby legally enforcing some of the forced expulsions that were brought about by the recent communal violence.