The Making Of Middle Indonesia [Download pdf] - Gerry van Klinken

Judul Ebook : The Making Of Middle Indonesia

Tebal Ebook : 319 Halaman

Bahasa           : Inggris

What holds Indonesia together? The question suddenly became urgent when widespread demonstrations amidst economic crisis forced the authoritarian President Suharto to step down in May 1998. Secessionist movements were active in Papua, Aceh and East Timor. When communal violence broke out in Maluku, Central Sulawesi and parts of Kalimantan, the word ‘disintegration’ suddenly leapt into the public discourse in Indonesia. For a while, no country in the world had more experts wondering aloud what the decisive national glue factor was. This dark question even began to overshadow hopeful ones concerning prospects for democracy and prosperity. Many thought society was so fractious that, without a strong figure at the top, the country would Balkanize, fall into religious fundamentalism, or descend into economic chaos. One foreign journalist wrote: ‘Diplomats in Jakarta sometimes debate whether it is the breakup of the Soviet Union or of the former Yugoslavia that offers the better illustration of how things could fall apart in this country.’1 Similar fears had preoccupied foreign policy specialists in the mid-1960s as the previous strong figure, Sukarno, grew frail. Both then and more recently, some with longer experience of the country spoke more optimistically about the strength of nationalism, the common language, and about the tolerance and pluralism that have always characterized these Southeast Asian people. In between the pessimists and optimists were those who simply felt Indonesia would somehow ‘muddle on.’

There was cause enough for worry – Yugoslavia really did fall apartbut on Indonesia the optimists turned out to be right. Other than having a sunny disposition, what did they know that others did not? It was my impression that they had traveled more. They experienced the nation not simply as an elaboration of an exemplary centre (a mandala, a powerful trope of Southeast Asian statecraft Wolters 1999), but as a myriad of personalized networks spreading across the archipelago. Thus Jakarta’s recurring crises were deprived of some of their power to spook them. It perhaps even translated to a different idea of the way power works across distance. 

Nobody formulated it quite like that, but it seems a productive possibility, and it is the jumping-off point for this book. 

This is a book about the history of Indonesia viewed not from the top but from within those personalized networks that helped to establish national power. It presents the history of middle-class actors in one particular town in order to build an argument about the way power works in Indonesia more broadly. The remainder of this introductory chapter sets out some important preliminaries. The first of its five sections describes ‘two Indonesias,’ the extremities – a small heartland of money, government, and big cities, and a vast rural and provincial town periphery. The second introduces Middle Indonesia as a way to understand what holds those two Indonesias together, which is less elitist than a top-down approach. An adequate history of Indonesia requires a mental horizon that spreads, not simply from the ‘centre’ to the ‘periphery,’ but from the commanding heights to that great middle that touches the bulk of ordinary Indonesians. The third and fourth sections turn to some theoretical literatures on power and class that underpin this broadened mental horizon. The fifth introduces one particular town, the object of the present study. It is located in a region of Indonesia that had so little contact with the Republic’s formative experiences as to make the question ‘what holds Indonesia together?’ look very real. A chapter outline follows in the final section.

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