Through the discourse of indigeneity, rural communities around the world are joining a global network of rural justice seekers. By articulating grievances collectively, they demand state recognition while seeking support from NGOs and international development organisations. In Indonesia, the manifestation of indigenous 'adat' politics is no longer confined to the national struggle for the recognition of land rights, but instead, has proliferated into many localised short term 'adat projects'. This introduction to the TAPJA special issue on adat demonstrates that both the rural poor and local elites can be the initiators or recipients of these adat projects but, at the current juncture, the latter are better positioned to benefit from such projects. The special issue shows that in Indonesia, where adat is often firmly entrenched in the state, the promotion of indigeneity claims can work in contradictory ways. Findings from across the special issue show that adat projects tend to reinforce the power of the state, rather than challenging it.