Community response to avian flu in Central Java, Indonesia

Siwi Padmawati, Mark Nichter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


This pilot study suggests that it is more appropriate to think of avian flu as a bio-social and bio-political challenge for Indonesia than merely an epidemiological challenge involving a disease of zoonotic origin. Our examination of popular perceptions of avian flu in Central Java reveals important differences of opinion about which types of fowl are responsible for avian flu transmission and the degree of risk H5N1 poses to humans. The opinions of backyard farmers and commercial poultry farmers are motivated by different forms of practical logic and are differentially influenced by media accounts, government education programmes, foreign aid and rumours about who stands to profit from the disease. Rumours reflect collective anxieties about globalization, the agenda of big business and the trustworthiness of the national government. We also illustrate how a commodity chain analysis can assist in the identification of different stake-holders in the informal and formal poultry industries. The position of each stake-holder needs to be considered in any comprehensive investigation of avian flu. An economic analysis of the capital investment of stake-holders provides insight into how each responds to government directives about the reporting of dead chickens, vaccinating birds etc. Finally, we call for research on avian flu preparedness attentive to Indonesia's de-centralized form of political rule and the social organization of communities so that clear lines of communication and command can be established and mutual assistance mobilized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-51
Number of pages21
JournalAnthropology and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Avian flu
  • Global health
  • Indonesia
  • Medical anthropology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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