Paternalistic state care and the dynamic of COVID-19 pandemic governance in Jakarta's rented social housing

The COVID-19 pandemic has reignited debates on care, exposing the vital role of social reproduction despite its ongoing devaluation. Recent studies underscore the urban marginal's multidimensional vulnerabilities during the pandemic, coupled with inadequate state support and excessive policing amid their disproportionate engagements in low-paying care work essential to the city. This study extends the literature by exploring the discourse of care amid the pandemic in Jakarta's rented social housing (rusunawa), Indonesia. As a state-owned settlement hosting displaced residents from informal settlements, rusunawa represents a new form of urban marginality. Based on an ethnography of three rusunawa between 2019 and 2021, I argue that paternalism defines the state's vision and operation of rusunawa. By portraying the residents as vulnerable yet ignorant, the state justifies the combination of disciplines and supports in ‘caring’ for them. The continued paternalistic care during the pandemic, with an intensification of disciplines and assistance, ameliorated the residents' antagonism against the state. Yet, access to state relief programs still hinged upon the residents' invocation of vulnerabilities and personal connection with rusunawa management. Lastly, I demonstrate the residents' intractable desire for a state that embodies a powerful yet nurturing parent, shaping their assessment of the quality of state care.