The Indonesia Reader: History, Culture, Politics

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Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago, encompassing nearly eighteen thousand islands. The fourth-most populous nation in the world, it has a larger Muslim population than any other. The Indonesia Reader is a unique introduction to this extraordinary country. Assembled for the traveler, student, and expert alike, the Reader includes more than 150 selections: journalists’ articles, explorers’ chronicles, photographs, poetry, stories, cartoons, drawings, letters, speeches, and more. Many pieces are by Indonesians; some are translated into English for the first time. All have introductions by the volume’s editors. Well-known figures such as Indonesia’s acclaimed novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer and the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz are featured alongside other artists and scholars, as well as politicians, revolutionaries, colonists, scientists, and activists.

Organized chronologically, the volume addresses early Indonesian civilizations; contact with traders from India, China, and the Arab Middle East; and the European colonization of Indonesia, which culminated in centuries of Dutch rule. Selections offer insight into Japan’s occupation (1942–45), the establishment of an independent Indonesia, and the post-independence era, from Sukarno’s presidency (1945–67), through Suharto’s dictatorial regime (1967–98), to the present Reformasi period. Themes of resistance and activism recur: in a book excerpt decrying the exploitation of Java’s natural wealth by the Dutch; in the writing of Raden Ajeng Kartini (1879–1904), a Javanese princess considered the icon of Indonesian feminism; in a 1978 statement from East Timor objecting to annexation by Indonesia; and in an essay by the founder of Indonesia’s first gay activist group. From fifth-century Sanskrit inscriptions in stone to selections related to the 2002 Bali bombings and the 2004 tsunami, The Indonesia Reader conveys the long history and the cultural, ethnic, and ecological diversity of this far-flung archipelago nation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Hellwig and Tagliacozzo . . . have collected a rich, engaging and broad array of sources which reveal Indonesia's distant past and this makes The Indonesia Reader of immense value to historians of all kinds.” - David Jansen, Contemporary Southeast Asia

“[A]n extraordinary cornucopia of sources that illustrate some of the pivotal and unique moments in Indonesia’s life.” - Laura Noszlopy, IIAS Newsletter

“Using narratives of history, culture and politics to approach Indonesia, The Reader provides a stimulating, challenging and provocative portrait presented through texts chosen on either because they pull apart the concept of ‘Indonesia’ or because they strengthen it. . . . The Indonesia Reader is a vital text. It is not only accessible for a generalist audience, but may also provide some more seasoned professionals with new perspectives through the many alternatives to the nationalistic interpretations of Indonesia that it presents.” - Andy Fuller, Inside Indonesia

“What a pleasure to find such an attractive new reader, a boon to anyone who teaches about Indonesia, and for the students and travellers for which it was designed!” - David Reeve, Asian Studies Review

“This is an excellent debut in a new series of World Readers from Duke University Press. With more than 150 selections, two leading Indonesia scholars have put together an original introduction to Indonesian society, politics, and culture. It achieves variety, yet remains coherent through its thematic selections. The Indonesia Reader is a well-made book in every sense: the translations, about one-fourth of them prepared for this book, are excellent; the contextualization before each selection is sharp yet not overbearing; and the production value is high. . . . [T]his reader will make for rewarding reading.” - Andrew Goss, Journal of World History

“[I]t is of great value for instructors developing courses that include Indonesia in such fields as history, political science, or Asian studies. Those with a background in Indonesian studies should also enjoy the book, not least because it presents a wide range of viewpoints about the archipelago over time. . . . [T]he editors' cogent introductions for each excerpt help set the materials in context. Summing Up: Recommended. All academic levels/libraries.” - S. Maxim, Choice

“Tineke Hellwig and Eric Tagliacozzo have woven together a variety of observations across time to help gain some insight into the astonishingly varied story of a fascinating nation. From reflections on the role of interoceanic trade, the flow of world religions, and the fight for independence and, ultimately, a just society, the book offers a key corpus of documents to debate and contextualize.”—Michael Laffan, Princeton University

“With selections including scholarly pieces, manifestoes, interviews, speeches, and inscriptions, this volume captures the long sweep of the Indonesian archipelago’s history while emphasizing its spectacular diversity. This is a Reader that deserves to be read.”—Rudof Mrázek, University of Michigan

Library Journal

Editors Hellwig (Asian studies, Univ. of British Columbia; In the Shadow of Change: Images of Women in Indonesian Literature) and Tagliacozzo (history & Asian studies, Cornell Univ.; Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and States Along a Southeast Asian Frontier, 1865-1915) here introduce the understudied nation of Indonesia. Reading their book is like exploring an eclectic, brightly colored museum-and leaving with a multifaceted understanding of one nation's history and cultures. The book is chronologically organized into ten sections, each beginning with an introduction by the editors and then providing ten to 12 engaging pieces relating to the time period. The primary sources included here are the book's gems; they range from fifth-century stone pillars and writings by travelers throughout many centuries to fiction, newspaper articles, manifestos, and more in the 20th and 21st centuries. Unfortunately, there are a couple of minor drawbacks. First, the introductions do not always provide background on the applicable author's affiliations. Second, both Indonesian words and social science terms need definitions. Finally, future versions of this book would benefit from suggestions for additional reading. Recommended for all students of Asian studies.
—Karen Sobel

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822344032
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2009
  • Series: The World Readers Series
  • Pages: 488
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Tineke Hellwig is Associate Professor of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of In the Shadow of Change: Images of Women in Indonesian Literature and a co-editor of Asian Women: Interconnections. Eric Tagliacozzo is Associate Professor of History at Cornell University. He is the author of Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and States along a Southeast Asian Frontier, 1865–1915 and editor of Southeast Asia and the Middle East: Islam, Movement, and the Longue Duree.

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Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2009 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4424-7


In 1883 at the Amsterdam Colonial Fair the Dutch erected a pavilion to showcase the wonders of their flourishing, sprawling colony, the Netherlands East Indies, now better known as Indonesia. A number of exhibits displayed the different cultures, societies, and artifacts of the Indies' varied peoples. An entire transplanted Javanese village formed the centerpiece of the exhibition. It was replete with Javanese peasants, but Sundanese and Sumatran people were also on view, revealing a variety of their cultures and lifeways. In precolonial times these widely divergent ethnic groups would never have considered themselves as part of any discrete political construct; in the postcolonial era many of these peoples' descendents might question the same assumption. But at that moment, at the turn of the twentieth century, the Dutch trumpeted the existence, and indeed the creation, of a unified Dutch East Indies as a victory and as an achievement: a triumph over disorder and a feat of coerced unity in the face of centuries of supposed anomie and unrest in a very remote corner of the world.

More than one century later Indonesia is the largest archipelago nationstate in the world, and its almost eighteen thousand islands both separate and link the Indian and PacificOceans. Only six thousand of these islands are inhabited, but the word Indonesians use to refer to their "homeland" or "fatherland" is tanah air, meaning "land and water," indicating the significance of both elements to national identity. Indonesia's population of 230 million is rich in cultural diversity, and since earliest times the island dwellers have sailed across the seas to build networks among the various societies. The waterways divide but also bind communities.

Indonesia's western part is located on the Sunda Shelf that is geologically part of Southeast Asia's mainland. The Sahul Shelf in the east (West New Guinea) was once part of Australia. A fault line in the Indian Ocean runs west of Sumatra, where the India Plate dives beneath the Burma Plate. Tectonic activity causes frequent seismic tremors: the December 26, 2004, earthquake with a 9.15 magnitude on the Richter scale and the subsequent tsunami of gigantic proportions resulted in the loss of lives of thousands, not only in Indonesia. The islands are shaped in two arcs of active volcanoes with deep troughs between them. They are part of the so-called Ring of Fire that runs along the Pacific Rim flowing onto the west coasts of North and South America. The catastrophic 1883 eruption of Krakatoa was destructive to humans, the natural environment, and weather patterns around the globe. Yet volcanic ash provides fertile soil that guarantees sufficient food crops for the populace. On Java, where two-thirds of today's population are concentrated, people say that if one plants a broomstick, a lush tree will soon flourish. The Javanese worship Mount Merapi in central Java with reverence and awe, as it is always spewing smoke or ash, rumbling at times as if to convey a message to the surrounding residents. They usually respond promptly with offerings to the volcano's spirits.

The archipelago straddles the equator over three thousand miles. The tropical climate brings high humidity throughout the year with two seasons, a dry one and the monsoon. The islands' mountain ranges were originally covered by dense and inaccessible jungle. Differences in altitude correspond to cultural variation and distinct power relations between hulu and hilir (upstream and downstream) societies, as well as between coastal, lowland areas in which trade and commerce prospered versus mountainous inland communities with more "tribal" peoples. In this tropical region one only finds eternal snow on Puncak Jaya, the highest peak of 5,039 meters in West New Guinea.

Many visitors to Indonesia are overwhelmed by the natural beauty of its environment. The lush rain forests, the tremendous diversity in flora and fauna, the dazzling colors and aromatic smells captivate newcomers. This is the land of the stunning bird of paradise, the monstrous Komodo dragon, of pungent durian fruit and exotic spices much sought after by people in Antiquity: nutmeg, mace, cloves, and pepper. In the past indigenes could rely on an abundance of timber and forest products such as resin, sandalwood, and medicinal plants. From the mid-nineteenth century onward, however, a rapid depletion of the forests as a result of increased population and logging, some of it illegal, has occurred. Virgin forests were turned over for agricultural use to produce rice, grown in terraced sawahs (wet rice fields) on the mountain slopes, and subsistence crops, but also trade commodities such as coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar cane, tobacco, indigo, and a range of palm products. Deep in the ground Indonesia is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas, tin, copper, gold, and bauxite. Beneath the ocean's surface one encounters a mosaic of colorful marine life: Indonesians have for centuries harvested the plentiful bounty of the sea to sustain their diet.

Indonesia's strategic location along the main sea routes between East and West made it a crossroads for travelers, material, and ideas. Foreign ships passed across the waters for hundreds of years, and some seafarers stayed a while after reaching the safety of the islands' shores. Europeans were among those who settled with no intention to leave. They gained positions of power, and in the end colonial rule defined Indonesia's boundaries. Negotiations with the Netherlands after the Second World War determined how the borders of the nation-state were to be drawn. As children learn in a nationalist song, the country stretches "dari Sabang sampai Merauke"-from Sabang, on the tiny island We, at its most northwestern tip, to Merauke on the south coast of West New Guinea. Sabang and Merauke represent two geographical extremes: one is located in the devout Muslim province of Aceh, the "Verandah of Mecca," while the other forms part of the Melanesian world of Papuans. They also signify political trouble spots: regions in the periphery that long resisted- and continue to resist-European colonialism and integration into a Java-centric sovereign state. Their respective independence movements have led to violence and civil war, causing endless human suffering.

Using Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) as the nation's motto, the nationalist agendas of postcolonial politicians have aimed to respect cultural diversity and to balance out wide regional heterogeneity. A myriad of ethnic groups, speaking more than four hundred languages and dialects, adheres to a range of values and beliefs. Yet almost all of these people can now converse with one another in bahasa Indonesia, the national language constructed out of Malay, which was used for market interactions over centuries. Bahasa Indonesia now perhaps serves as the best index of the achievement of a modern nation, where before there was only allegiance to village and to town, or in some cases to the notion of people on a particular island having some sort of connection with each other. Ethnic and racial stereotyping persists, however, particularly among the Javanese with their often strong sense of superiority. Bataks and Madurese are considered kasar (rude), while Moluccans, Dayaks, or Papuans on the so-called Outer Islands are often looked down on as "uncivilized." Immigrants are easy targets of othering too, and at times they fall victim to racism and violence. Chinese immigration is the most prominent besides that from India and the Arab world. Chinese scholars, mostly Buddhist, moved to the archipelago during the first millennium of the Common Era. Some centuries later Chinese men settled down and married local women. Their offspring, referred to as peranakan (Chinese-Malay), remains a visible minority. Peranakan families who have lived in Indonesia for generations deconstruct any notion of racial and cultural essentialism. Their very existence raises not only the question of Chineseness but also asks: Who is, or can claim to be, Indonesian?

Outside the archipelago certain cliché images of what Indonesia stands for also persevere. The shadow puppet theatre, or wayang, is an acclaimed Indonesian art form, even when its best-known characters such as Arjuna, Kresna, and Duryudana originate in Indian mythology. Many Westerners recognize the gamelan music that accompanies a wayang performance as typically Indonesian. Another stereotype, particularly in North America, is the famous "cup of Java," which holds the promise of a taste of fine coffee. But generally Indonesia is known as the fourth most populous nation after China, India, and the United States of America. It is also the largest Muslim country, a fact particularly emphasized in the Western world since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the twin towers in New York. Bali scores high in the perception of the West as a "tourist paradise" and the "island of the gods." The Balinese adhere to their version of Hinduism, their everyday lives filled with ceremonial customs. The Dutch colonial administration came to Bali only in the early 1900s, but once it was established, Europeans and Americans flocked to the island east of Java, exoticizing its culture, traditions, and art forms. It became an artist's heaven and a dream holiday destination. Tourism boomed, and some foreign travelers to Bali would return home not even realizing they had been in Indonesia. However, the stream of visitors came to a halt when Islamist terrorists carried out deadly bomb attacks in October 2002. Bali's economy has since plummeted, experiencing the severe effects of the post-9/11 world.

One of Bali's attractions is its aesthetic ritual, expressed through music, dance, the visual arts, and daily offerings of colorful flowers and incense. Religious practices leave a considerable mark on society. Lifestyles and values, morality and normative behavior are primarily guided by prescriptions of the faith. Before the major world religions arrived, belief systems on the islands included animism and the worship of ancestors, spirits, and supernatural forces. The islanders lived in close harmony with nature, and women played a prominent role in social and kinship relations. Married couples often resided with the bride's parents or relatives; in a bilateral system children belonged to both their mother's and their father's families, and some societies were explicitly matrilineal. Women were visibly present in the village's public life and had decision-making power in the (household) economy.

Shifts in indigenous socioreligious patterns first occurred when Hinduism and Buddhism found their way southeastward from India. These religions amalgamated with one another and with existing beliefs into new local versions. Islam trailed behind the Indian religions. It, too, was adopted, adapted, and culturally transformed. Islam in Indonesia differs from that in the Middle East in the way it has incorporated pre-Muslim thought and practice and devotees have adjusted the doctrine to their needs, at times creating their own folk version of the religion. Islam arrived in the archipelago peacefully, traveling with merchants and reaching Aceh first. Marco Polo noticed Muslims in this region in 1292. Over the centuries it gradually spread further east when increasing numbers of local rulers converted to the new religion. Those in the coastal areas embraced Islam first, as they had the most contact with foreigners. By the late seventeenth century sultanates could be found from Sumatra to as far east as Sumbawa, northern Sulawesi, and the Moluccas.

Europeans brought Christian missionaries who were mostly successful in more isolated, upland areas that had not yet converted to Islam. Churches were able to proselytize the local population only if they left room for native spirituality or traditional rituals. All in all one finds in Indonesia's multilayered syncretism many complexities in terms of religion, culture, and social relations. It shows in the matrilineal and matrifocal kinship system of the Islamized Minangkabau of western Sumatra or in the popularity of Hindu tales as performed in the wayang among Muslims on Sumatra and Java. In general Islam as practiced in Indonesia has been remarkably tolerant of other religious elements still found in daily life, though this has begun to change in some communities, often to the alarm of many local peoples themselves.

When a few small ships from Portugal docked in the Moluccas in the sixteenth century, they had found what they were looking for: the famed Spice Islands. These ships had traversed the entirety of the Atlantic, crossed the vast Indian Ocean, passed through the Muslim-dominated seas of the Indies, and had finally dropped anchor in several tiny bays. They had been in search of spices that grew nowhere else on earth but here. The Portuguese were followed by the Spanish, and the Spanish by the English and the Dutch until the latter managed to evict all the others and erect an imperfect monopoly on the trade in these items to the other side of the world. Control over the tiny islands of eastern Indonesia became a matter of financial and political life and death. At one point the Dutch exchanged one of the small remaining English islands in the Moluccas for an island of their own in the distant New World-New Amsterdam, now better known as Manhattan. It is difficult to think of a more apt example of Indonesia's centrality to the processes of history. Yet visits to modern Manhattan and to Pulau Run, the Moluccan island in question, would likely fill one with a sense of the unpaid debts of the past because of the latter island's poverty.

The first two centuries of Dutch presence, from 1600 to 1800, marked the age of mercantilism dominated by the voc (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, the United East Indies Company). The founder of Batavia (in 1619) and the voc governor general, Jan Pieterszoon Coen, once remarked "ende dispereert niet, ... daer can in Indiën wat groots verricht worden" (and do not despair, ... something magnificent can be achieved in the Indies). The voc administered its trading posts in the Far East from Batavia. It allowed, even encouraged, Dutch bachelor men to engage in sexual liaisons with local women. Similar to peranakans, their mixed race progeny, a significant "class" of so-called Indos, would confound any concept of racial purity or sense of "true" Indonesian-or for that matter, Dutch-identity.

The Dutch began to unify some of the islands under their coercive control, forging alliances with indigenous rulers. In 1800 a phase of state colonialism set in after the bankruptcy of the voc. Travel took on a different importance, because voyages were rarely neutral in intent-something was usually there to be "won," whether this was commerce, knowledge, or actual territory for the expanding colonial state. The intensified administration and exploitation of natural resources and the labor force meant huge profits for the Netherlands and a pauperization of the indigenous peoples. The latter were ethnically divided and therefore in no position to oppose colonialism. No inhabitants of this huge archipelago would have thought of themselves as forming part of a large political project. The Dutch, on the other hand, were determined to impose their will even on remote areas. To maintain race and class privileges they made hierarchical divisions between Europeans, Indos, so-called foreign Orientals (i.e., Chinese, Arabs, and Japanese), and inlanders ("natives"). The unhappy legacy of these race relations can still be felt today, particularly in the tensions between Indonesians and Chinese. The Dutch also added another layer to Indonesia's mosaic, namely, one of Dutch-European bourgeois values and modernity.


Excerpted from THE INDONESIA READER Copyright © 2009 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

I Early Histories 13

II Early Modern Histories 63

III Cultures in Collision 105

IV Through Travelers' Eyes 149

V High Colonial Indies 193

VI The Last Decades of the Indies 245

VII From Nationalism to Independence 291

VIII The Old Order, the New Order - Political Climate 329

IX Social Issues and Cultural Debates 365

X Into the Twenty-First Century 407

Suggestions for Further Reading 451

Acknowledgment of Copyrights 457

Index 465

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