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Under Generasi, more than 5, villages across the archipelago receive an annual block grant and, with the assistance of village facilitators, each village allocates these grants toward activities that support the improvement of health and education indicators.
In and , on behalf of the Indonesian government and its international donors, I conducted fieldwork in Manggarai Timur district on the eastern Indonesian island of Flores in Nusa Tenggara Timur NTT, figure 1 province to study Generasi on the ground. When asked to describe the biggest challenges in implementing Generasi, the program staff in Manggarai Timur repeatedly used a geographic vocabulary of fields lapangan , topography topografi , and region and territory daerah that evokes the demands of supervising a government program across dozens of mountain villages with notoriously poor infrastructure.
But their geographic language also extends metaphorically to the enduring problems of scale and governance in a national program subject to the principles of community-driven development. In this article I analyze the use of spatial metaphors of topography and field in relation to the changing governance of maternal and child health services in Indonesian villages, taking the Manggarai highlands as a case study example. Focusing on the language of topography and field also allows me to critically describe how Generasi is scaffolded at multiple scales, from its community participation meetings and monthly maternal and child health clinics in Manggarai villages, to the technocratic policy work in Jakarta, and to the academic spaces of Auckland and Cambridge.
These metrics link data to particular places, but nonetheless appear drained of meaning and value if we take the time to carefully observe the context in which these numbers are counted. I joined a fact-finding team charged with investigating the effects of a recent disruption in government funding to Generasi since January and other program outcomes in advance of the next impact evaluation.
Our team consisted of three Indonesians from Jakarta — a social development economist and a monitoring and evaluation specialist, both from the World Bank, and an analyst from a development economics research firm based at the University of Indonesia — and two foreigners, an economics doctoral student based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and myself, a medical anthropologist currently based in Auckland. We chose to visit Manggarai Timur because I had visited this district during my first study of the Generasi program in Grayman, Anggraini, and Ruhanawati , and this afforded an opportunity to observe changes over the past two years.