Dian Ekowati


Host Institute

University of Brighton

Dian Ekowati photo Topic A Gendered Analysis of Care in Family Farms in Oil Palm Policy Discourse in Indonesia.


Rebecca Elmhirst, Mary Gearey

Secondment 1 University of Passau


Martina Padmanbhan

Secondment 2 Centre for International Forestry Rsearch


Iliana Monterroso





Dian Ekowati worked to support research and community development programs with CIFOR, the Sajogyo Institute, and the Samdhana Institute. She contributed to CIFOR’s research team on governing oil palm for sustainable and gender inclusive landscapes and on participatory MRV in Indonesia; was previously a Program Assistant for the Samdhana Institute on local and adat community development projects; and a junior social researcher at Sajogyo Institute, supported research on a wide range of issues on land rights, rural development and gender equality. Dian has a MA in Rural Sociology and BA in Communication and Community Development from the Bogor Agricultural University. 

Objectives of the research

Oil palm investments on a large and smaller scale have transformed people-nature relationships in Indonesia, drawing considerable critical attention from academics and activists alike. Studies emanating from feminist political ecology have drawn attention to the gendered dimensions of alienation and dispossession of resources and livelihoods, and this kind of approach tends to centre attention on the transition to oil palm landscapes. The ESR will examine community efforts to tackle social and environmental injustices in the acquisition process focusing on establishing sets of rights within affected communities (e.g. clarity of tenure, transparency and access to information) or on responsibilising the oil palm supply chain through corporate zero deforestation pledges. It will explore how, given that Indonesia’s forest-based communities are largely lost to oil palm and other extractivist industries, and that green economy initiatives seemingly bring with them new forms of enclosure and dispossession there is a need for new imagining and transforming post-oil palm futures. Drawing inspiration from Anna Tsing’s exploration of the possibility of life in capitalist ruins, this study will draw from and contribute to transformative postcolonial material feminist political ecology to ask what forms of community, commoning and care are emerging in the ruins of post-oil palm landscapes, how do these draw on and shift nature-cultures and configurations and might these be shaped (or be shaping) new configurations of power/knowledge.

Expected Results

A study of gendered power, authority and resource entitlement in ethnically-diverse settings of oil palm plantations in Indonesia.

Progress update

Dian Ekowati joined the School of Environment and Technology at the University of Brighton as WEGO early-stage researcher at the end of March 2019. During her first year of PhD, she attended several PhD courses: ethics, research design, analytic thinking, qualitative analysis, qualitative writing, social research methods that were valuable in sharpening her ability to frame her research plan. Her regular supervision meeting with Rebecca Elmhirst and Mary Gearey helped her building her argument and her research questions using FPE optics on communing, care, in the context of oil palm communities in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. She also benefits much from discussions with other PhDs: Elona Hoover (UoB), Alice, Siti Maimunah, Constance, Enid (WEGO). She submitted her research design to the doctoral college in the 8th month of her PhD. During her time in the UK, she also attended several discussions organized off-campus in London School of Economics and Political Science and Institute of Development Studies, Brighton Gallery. She met informally with like-minded scholars and activists that helped her communicate her research and link it to the on-going discussion. She hosted a reading group together with Siti Maimunah during ExtractingUs Exhibition, July 2019. She presented her research plan in a talk with Deru Anding, an artist of Dayak Borneo, supported by Rebecca Elmhirst, her supervisor and Persephone Pearl of ONCA in November 2019.

When the pandemic began to impact in the UK, she was completing her literature review and preparing for a field-based scoping study in preparation for the data collection phase. She was also about to resubmit her ethics after her earlier submission received a minor review from the ethics board of the university. However, she was advised by her supervisor and the university’s ethics board to hold the ethics and revise it in view of the pandemic. The University of Brighton lockdown, and restrictions on the mobility of PhD researchers and all ‘face-to-face’ research, came into force at the end of March 2020. This restriction has effectively ruled out the ethnographic research element of her thesis for the foreseeable future.

She is now deciding to re-frame her research design and follow discourse analysis methods instead of her original ethnography approach as the university suspended all face-to-face research for undetermined time. The original research plan she submitted to the University was “Care in Beyond Economy: Exploring Care Practices within the Everyday Lives of Independent Oil Palm Smallholders in West Kalimantan, Indonesia”. Based on her discussion with her supervisors, Dian is currently changing it to “a Gendered Discourse Analysis of Care and Family Farms in Indonesian Oil Palm”. She will present her initial design and work with the new plan in the WEGO Training Lab in June and in an online colloquium with the University of Passau in July.

After moving back to Indonesia in early March, she continued to have regular once in two weeks discussion with her supervisors through the University’s Microsoft Team. The university provided her with access to the free download of software, references, and online training that Dian continues to access.

Publications by Dian Ekowati


Blogs by Dian Ekowati

FPE Dialogues UK – a look into frontline communities and the multiple faces of extractivism

This series of events was organised by WEGO-ITN Early Stage Researchers Dian Ekowati, Siti Maimunah, Alice Owen and Eunice Wangari, ...

Caring in the time of Covid, in Indonesia

July 2021 This morning, like every morning in the past weeks (I can’t remember exactly how many), when I get ...

Meeting and Caring with a group of feminist activists in Indonesia

Cancelled weddings, work challenges, homesickness, menstruation talks, loss of friends to Covid-19. Even with all the hardships, our enthusiasm at ...

Forest Communities and Palm Oil: Film Screening and Discussion

On 28 November 2019, WEGO PhD Dian Ekowati hosted a film screening and discussion on forest communities and palm oil ...
extra care

Care – extra care

I’m trying hard to sleep, seeing my dear 18 month-old daughter finally fall asleep. I am exhausted, tried to sleep, ...

Podcast by Dian Ekowati