Yanger : Tracing the Roots of Halmahera String Bands, 8 June 2018, Aural Archipelago
We can begin by zooming in on Halmahera, an island shaped like a pair of chromosomes, a miniature twin of the lotus-like Sulawesi to the west. One of the largest islands in Maluku, Halmahera was nonetheless historically dwarfed by the tiny island kingdoms which cling to its eastern shores: the small, volcano-studded Ternate, Tidore, and Bacan. Halmahera had its own mysterious kingdom on this western flank called Jailolo, a name so powerful it was once used to refer to the whole island. Still, it’s a peripheral place, especially in modern day Indonesia.
Spend a week in Halmahera, like I did, and you’ll find a place where traces of these rich, world-changing histories are still apparent: nutmeg trees cling to the perfect volcanic dome of Mt. Jailolo, and old colonial-era forts crumble near its black sand beaches. You’re also bound to find music: there’s tifa, booming log drums also found across Melanesia; there’s togal, music for conspicuously western dances played on a violin-like fiddle called fiol. Then there’s my favorite of all, a music at once familiar and enigmatic, a music which wraps up hundreds of years of history in a tuneful package: yanger.
Yanger, you could say, is the local take on a string band tradition that spans the Pacific. It is partly from this angle that yanger gets its familiarity: just as yanger combines upbeat lutes, rubbery bass, and major key melodies, so too do its cousins across the Melanesian and Polynesian world, from string bands in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu all the way to joyous yospan in Papua and similar forms across the border in PNG. While Halmahera sits on the edge of the Melanesian world, yanger‘s link with this wider world of Pacific Island string bands is a mystery. While those musics seem intuitively like long-lost cousins, their histories are completely different, with those styles often being the result of Western contact during and after World War II. A different, perhaps more complex set of histories is at play here with yanger in Halmahera.
Seminar : « Pirates lands : Governance and maritime piracy » by Ursula Daxecker, 21 June 2018, KITLV
Piracy—like civil war, terrorism, and other organized crime—is a problem of weak and fragile states. But while helpful in identifying the countries most affected by maritime piracy, focusing on the weakness of entire countries does little to further our understanding of why piracy clusters close to some coastal communities but not to others. Our book argues that local governance and infrastructural development help explain pirate location. Pirate operations require substantial upfront investments, aided by proximity to markets and infrastructure. For sophisticated attacks, a group leader or boss provides pirates with a boat, fuel, equipment, and money to bribe officials. We therefore expect that in weak or failed states, pirates will operate in coastal areas where local governance is weak enough to incentivize collusion among pirates and authorities, yet strong enough to ensure that infrastructure and markets are sufficiently developed to permit the organization of sustained piracy. We examine our arguments empirically in quantitative analyses of local governance patterns and piracy in Indonesia. Field research conducted in Indonesia’s Riau Islands helps us to further assess the plausibility of theoretical mechanisms. Interviews with former pirates, community members, and journalists highlight the importance of access to markets and infrastructure for pirate operations, and also provided us with numerous examples of tacit and active collusion by local governance providers and the community.
Ursula Daxecker is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam and a member of the Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research. Her work explores the determinants of election violence and organized crime. She is currently completing a book manuscript on maritime piracy (co-authored with Brandon Prins). She also recently completed a four-year research project collecting disaggregated data on electoral contention and violence funded by the Dutch Science Foundation and the EC’s Marie Curie actions. She is associate editor at European Journal of International Relations and International Interactions. Her work is published in British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Public Choice, Electoral Studies, among others.
Bridging Worlds, Illumining the Archives : An International Conference in Honor of Professor Resil B. Mojares, 30-31 July 2018, Novotel Manila Araneta Center, Quezon City
We are pleased to inform you that the international journal Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints School of Social Sciences, Ateneo de Manila University and the Southeast Asian Studies Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University are organizing an international conference titled “Bridging Worlds, Illumining the Archive: An International Conference in Honor of Professor Resil B. Mojares.” It will be held on 30–31 July 2018 at the Novotel Manila Araneta Center Cubao, Quezon City.
In a prolific career spanning five decades, Resil B. Mojares has produced a remarkable body of work that combines meticulous research, incisive analysis, and elegant, lyrical writing.
An exemplary home-grown and -educated activist, intellectual, institution-builder, and man of letters, Mojares has made important, often pioneering, contributions to diverse fields and subjects, ranging from Philippine literature (Origins and Rise of the Filipino Novel: A Generic Study of the Novel until 1940; [co-ed.] the two-volume Sugilanong Sugboanon), architecture (Casa Gorordo in Cebu: Urban Residence in a Philippine Province, 1860–1920), theater and social history (Theater in Society, Society in Theater: Social History of a Cebuano Village, 1840–1940), to intellectual history (Brains of the Nation: Pedro Paterno, T. H. Pardo de Tavera, Isabelo de los Reyes, and the Production of Modern Knowledge), biography (Vicente Sotto: Maverick Senator; The Man Who Would be President: Serging Osmeña and Philippine Politics; Aboitiz: Family and Firm in the Philippines), history and politics (The War Against the Americans: Resistance and Collaboration in Cebu, 1899–1906; [co-ed.] From Marcos to Aquino: Local Perspectives on the Political Transition in the Philippines).
Apart from book-length works, Mojares has also produced occasional essays (collected in House of Memory; Waiting for Mariang Makiling: Essays in Philippine Cultural History; Isabelo’s Archive; The Resil Mojares Reader; and Interrogations in Philippine Cultural History) that have done much to illuminate “what is obscure, hidden, and marginal” in a plurilingual, pluricultural Philippines. His works blur “the boundaries between academic and literary writing,” while simultaneously building on, and questioning, the “idea and performance of the archive—capacious, diverse, makeshift, open-ended, and polymorphic, and one ‘national’ in its motive and ambition” (Mojares, “Writing the Archive,” Manila Review Issue 5, Sept. 2014).
The perspectives Mojares brings to his study of Philippine history, politics, society, culture, and the arts are methodologically eclectic and capable of moving effortlessly between and across local, national, regional (subnational and supranational), and transnational scales.
This international conference celebrates the life, career, and writings of Resil B. Mojares. It aims not only to assess Professor Mojares’s influence, but also to engage with the ideas, issues, and contexts brought up by his writings on and across various fields of inquiry.
This call for participation is addressed to those who wish to attend the conference but not present papers. Interested parties are requested to complete and submit the registration form, and remit their registration fees, on or before 27 July 2017.
For Philippine participants: P5,500
For overseas participants: US$120
On-site registration (30–31 July 2018): P6,000, with no assured conference packet.
CFP : The Rohingya Crisis : A Multidimensional Tragedy, 24/08/2018, Asia Centre Bangkok
The Rohingya Crisis sparked by the 25 August 2017 attacks on Government forces by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in Rakhine State, Myanmar, triggered one of the worst humanitarian crises in contemporary history – “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. In a matter of a few months over 750,000 Rohingya people, mostly women and children, fled to Bangladesh. Five months later, as of 23 January 2018, the Rohingya were subjected to a repatriation agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar that was postponed. The current human rights discourse centers on pointing out the discrimination practices against the Rohingyas, the failure of moral leadership previously embodied in Aung San Suu Kyi, the impotence of ASEAN, the need for accountability for atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and the determination of voluntariness when the Rohingya refugees are repatriated. This call invites contributions that go beyond and delve deeper into this multidimensional tragedy. It is an opportunity for researchers who have been investigating different aspects of the crisis to highlight their work. Researchers of selected papers will be invited to participate in a 1 day conference in Bangkok, to mark the anniversary of one of the largest humanitarian catastrophes in Southeast Asia. Selected papers will be compiled and published as an edited volume.
Key Themes: Papers will address critical issues spanning the following themes
ARSA : Unpack ARSA’s role in the crisis
Development: Evaluate economic growth’s role for values change
Elites: Dissect the elites’ conflicting interests
Fake News: Examine the role of misinformation in generating violence
Geopolitics: Capture the external global and regional power dimensions
Hosts: Examine the role of Bangladesh and other destination countries
Human Trafficking: Identify illicit networks and their exploitative practices
Identity: Sketch the competing ethnic and religious political positions
Prejudice: Explain the inflexible attitudes against the Rohingyas
Rakhine Perspective: Articulate the majority-minority dimensions
SGBV: Analyse the different sexual and gender based violence
An initial 300 word abstract should be sent to Dr. James Gomez and Dr. Robin Ramcharan by 28 February 2018. Full papers will be due by 1 June 2018 and will be peer reviewed. Research articles should be between 5,000 to 6,000 words (incl. footnotes and references).
As part of this project, a coordination meeting with selected authors is scheduled at Asia Centre, Bangkok, for 24 August 2018, marking the one year anniversary of the attacks by ARSA in Rakhine State. The meeting shall take stock of the latest developments and finalize the selected papers. Authors will thereafter revise their papers, which shall be submitted to the publisher on 1 October 2018.
This is a self-funded project. Hence, each participant is requested to contribute US$ 300 net, which will cover the costs of the meeting, catering, communication as well as editorial costs. Authors shall secure their own funds for travel, daily subsistence and accommodation while in Bangkok.
Important Dates Abstract Submission: 30 June 2018
Abstract Acceptance: notification within three days of submission
Payment of conference fees: upon acceptance of abstract
Full paper submission: latest 31 July 2018
Please contact the Events Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need an extension or are not able to produce a full paper in time for the conference
« Twenty years of Indonesian democracy—how many more? » by Edward Aspinall, 24 May 2018, New Mandala
When Indonesia’s New Order regime met its end in May 1998, I was a PhD student researching Indonesian opposition movements while teaching Indonesian language and politics at a university in Sydney. Along with other lecturers and students, I watched the live broadcast of Suharto’s resignation speech, listening to the words of one of our colleagues as she translated the president’s fateful words for Australian TV. Clustered around a television screen in a poky AV lab, everyone present felt awed by the immensity of what we were witnessing, relieved that a dangerous political impasse had been broken, and nervously hopeful about the future after so many long years of political stagnation.
The extraordinary achievements of political reform in the years that followed formed one of the great success stories of the so-called “third wave” of democratisation—the worldwide surge of regime change that began in Southern Europe in the mid-1970s and then spread through Latin America, Africa and Asia. The post-Suharto democracy has now lasted longer than did Indonesia’s earlier period of parliamentary democracy (1950–1957), and the subsequent Guided Democracy regime (1957–65). While it still has another dozen years to pass the record set by Suharto’s New Order, Indonesian democracy has proved that it has staying power.
What few would question, though, is that the quality of Indonesia’s democracy was a problem from the beginning—and that under President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) democratic quality has begun to slide dramatically.
Earlier this year, the Economist Intelligence Unit gave Indonesia its largest downgrading in its Democracy Index since scoring began in 2006. With a score of 6.39 out of a possible maximum of 10, the country is now bumping down toward the bottom of the index’s category of “flawed democracies”, on the verge—if it sinks just a little lower—of crossing into the category of “hybrid regime”. This downgrading of Indonesia’s position follows similar drops for the country in other democracy indices like the Freedom in the World survey compiled by Freedom House.
Indonesia’s trajectory is not bucking the global trend. Around the world, democracy is in retreat. Freedom House says democracy is facing “its most serious crisis in decades”, with 71 countries experiencing declines in political rights and civil liberties in 2017 and only 35 registering gains, making 2017 the twelfth year in a row showing global democratic recession.
Unlike during an earlier era of military coups, today the primary source of democratic backsliding is elected politicians. Leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán undermine the rule of law, manipulate institutions for their own political advantage, and restrict the space for democratic opposition. Elected despotism is, increasingly, the order of the day. Indeed, as I argue here, the primary threat to Indonesia’s democratic system today comes not from actors outside the arena of formal politics, like the military or Islamic extremists, but the politicians that Indonesians themselves have chosen.
Research internship: ‘Digital humanities and traditional Indonesian literature’
As of September 1, 2018, KITLV is offering a three-months’ internship for an MA-student in literature, history, computer science or area studies.
The intern will assist dr. Kathryn Wellen with a pilot study which uses digital humanities techniques to study family relations in state formation in early modern Indonesian history. The intern’s tasks will be to:
assemble data from published (translations of) five or six Indonesian texts;
analyze assembled data using geographic and network analyses;
assist in planning a second, larger-scale study using similar methods.
The internship will take place at the KITLV and will be for 3 months, 3 days per week. (This is equal to 10 ECT. Academic credit may be arranged with the intern’s academic institution.) The intern is encouraged to participate in the intellectual life of KITLV and the Leiden University Centre for Digital Humanities.
Knowledge of digital humanities (particularly knowledge of network analysis and GIS software) is strongly preferred. Knowledge of Indonesian or Dutch is also desirable.
the opportunity to gain working experience at an international research institute
the opportunity to give a presentation during a research meeting and to attend seminars within and outside KITLV to expand your academic network.
an internship fee of 180 euro bruto per month (based on 3 days per week) and if needed travel expenses will be covered.
Please send your application consisting of an expression of interest and cv including the names of at least two references to Dr. Kathryn Wellen: ln.vltik@nellew. The deadline for this application is June 28, 2018.
Another Chinese paper stamp in a Malay manuscript by Annabel Teh Gallop, 05/06/2018, Asian and African Studies Blog, British Library
A few years ago, I became intrigued by the red ink stamps of Chinese paper makers occasionally glimpsed on the pages of Malay and Javanese manuscripts in the British Library, and in a post on Malay manuscripts on Chinese paper illustrated all the examples encountered so far. Recently, another example has surfaced, in a fine illuminated copy of the Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiah, copied by Muhammad Kasim in 1805. The manuscript was previously owned by John Leyden, and is therefore most likely to have been copied in Penang, where Leyden spent four months convalescing from late 1805 to early 1806. On the bottom left hand corner of f. 61 r is a red ink stamp of an animal, a rather rotund quadruped resembling a hippopotamus or rhinoceros.
Geoffrey C. Gunn, Monarchical Manipulation in Cambodia : France, Japan, and the Sihanouk Crusade for Independence, NIAS Press, 2018
First book to explain the agency of Cambodian monarchs in the face of broader colonial manipulation and international power plays.
• Explores the historic interplay of charismatic power and political patronage in Cambodia.
• Focuses on the tumultuous wartime and early post-war events surrounding Sihanouk’s ‘crusade’ for Cambodia’s independence.
One figure strides across modern Cambodian history – Norodom Sihanouk. From his accession to the throne of Cambodia in 1941 until his extravagant funeral ceremony in 2013, the prince turned ‘king father’ in later life never dodged controversy. But this is not a biography of Sihanouk; the focus is upon the final decades of the French protectorate, the rise of a counter-elite and winning of Cambodia’s independence.
Manipulation of the 1,000-year-old monarchy comes to the heart of this book, as does indigenous resistance, Buddhist activism, French cultural creationism, the rise of radical republicanism, Thai recidivism and wartime Japanese machinations. Carried through into the postwar period, the seeds of Cambodia’s own destruction were being sown in the jungle perimeters, rubber plantations, schools and monkhood, and even in the classrooms of prestigious French institutions.
Deeply embedded Khmer cultural conventions and the interplay of charismatic power and patronage are not irrelevant to this discussion, indeed inform us as to the future and even present-day patterns of political behaviour. The skill of the young Sihanouk in navigating between Vichy France, Japanese militarists, republican opportunists, armed rural insurgency and French proconsuls is brought to life by a range of new archival documentation. A book is also a work of premonition as much inquiry, exploring how did a country of such grace and natural bounty come to be associated with the worst excesses of mass murder and genocide experienced in the twentieth century. The long political prelude as exposed in this book makes the now clichéd ‘tragedy of Cambodian history’ much more comprehensible.
Julia L. Cassaniti, Remembering the Present : Mindfulness in Buddhist Asia, Cornell University Press, 2018
What is mindfulness, and how does it vary as a concept across different cultures? How does mindfulness find expression in practice in the Buddhist cultures of Southeast Asia? What role does mindfulness play in everyday life? J. L. Cassaniti answers these fundamental questions and more through an engaged ethnographic investigation of what it means to « remember the present » in a region strongly influenced by Buddhist thought.
Focusing on Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, Remembering the Present examines the meanings, practices, and purposes of mindfulness. Using the experiences of people in Buddhist monasteries, hospitals, markets, and homes in the region, Cassaniti shows how an attention to memory informs how people live today and how mindfulness is intimately tied to local constructions of time, affect, power, emotion, and selfhood. By looking at how these people incorporate Theravada Buddhism into their daily lives, Cassaniti provides a signal contribution to the psychological anthropology of religious experience.
Remembering the Presentheeds the call made by researchers in the psychological sciences and the Buddhist side of mindfulness studies for better understandings of what mindfulness is and can be. Cassaniti addresses fundamental questions about selfhood, identity, and how a deeper appreciation of the many contexts and complexities intrinsic in sati (mindfulness in the Pali language) can help people lead richer, fuller, and healthier lives. Remembering the Present shows how mindfulness needs to be understood within the cultural and historical influences from which it has emerged.
Richard Fox, More Than Words : Transforming Script, Agency, and Collective Life in Bali, Cornell University Press, september 2018
Grounded in ethnographic and archival research on the Indonesian island of Bali, More Than Words challenges conventional understandings of textuality and writing as they pertain to the religious traditions of Southeast Asia. Through a nuanced study of Balinese script as employed in rites of healing, sorcery, and self-defense, Richard Fox explores the aims and desires embodied in the production and use of palm-leaf manuscripts, amulets, and other inscribed objects.
Balinese often attribute both life and independent volition to manuscripts and copperplate inscriptions, presenting them with elaborate offerings. Commonly addressed with personal honorifics, these script-bearing objects may become partners with humans and other sentient beings in relations of exchange and mutual obligation. The question is how such practices of « the living letter » may be related to more recently emergent conceptions of writing—linked to academic philology, reform Hinduism, and local politics—which take Balinese letters to be a symbol of cultural heritage, and a neutral medium for the transmission of textual meaning. More than Words shows how Balinese practices of apotropaic writing—on palm-leaves, amulets, and bodies—challenge these notions, and yet coexist alongside them. Reflecting on this coexistence, Fox develops a theoretical approach to writing centered on the premise that such contradictory sensibilities hold wider significance than previously recognized for the history and practice of religion in Southeast Asia and beyond.
Online exhibition of Buddhist art of Myanmar in the collection of the British Museum. Curated by Alexandra Green, Henry Ginsburg Curator in Southeast Asian Art at the British Museum.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Western scholars viewed Buddhism as an austere, monolithic religion focused upon meditation and nirvana – the escape from the cycles of rebirth. Such a portrayal ignores the realities of religious systems in Myanmar (Burma), where people combine homage to the Buddha with such activities as spirit worship, making offerings, and divination. People select these rituals according to their personal needs in everyday life, and also to form spiritual pathways to pleasurable rebirths and to help them strive for nirvana. This exhibition draws on the British Museum’s Myanmar collections to explore how the variety of Buddhist ideas is revealed in lively daily practices.
Buddhism Illuminated through Southeast Asian Manuscript Art (1), 08/06/2018, Asian and African Studies Blog, British Library
Buddhism Illuminated: Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia is a lavishly-illustrated book which has just been published by the British Library, in collaboration with Washington University Press. The book, by two curators in the British Library’s Southeast Asia section, is dedicated to the memory of the Library’s former Curator of Thai, Lao and Cambodian collections, Dr Henry D. Ginsburg (1940-2007), who was a leading expert and one of the pioneers of research on Buddhist manuscript art in Southeast Asia. The purpose of this book is to share many years of research on the British Library’s unique collection of Southeast Asian manuscripts on Buddhism, which illustrate not only the life and teachings of the historical Buddha, but also everyday Buddhist practice, life within the monastic order, festivals, cosmology, and ethical principles and values.
The book contains six chapters and over 200 high-quality coloured photographs of manuscripts which have mostly been digitised with generous funding from Henry Ginsburg’s Legacy. The illustrations are mainly from eighteenth and nineteenth century Burmese and Thai manuscripts, and the book provides detailed background information on Theravada Buddhism in general and Buddhist art in mainland Southeast Asia in particular.
San San May and Jana Igunma, Buddhism Illuminated: Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia, London: British Library 2018. (ISBN 978 0 7123 5206 2)
CFP : Council on Thai Studies Conference, 12-14 October 2018 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstracts due by 1 August.
We are honored that this year’s keynote speaker will be Dr Puangthong Pawakapan, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University and 2018-2019 Harvard-Yenching Fellow. She will speak on “Development and Impact of the Thai Military’s Political Offensive.”
COTS, established in 1972, is a consortium of universities with a particular interest in Thai Studies.
The annual COTS meeting is designed to provide scholars, students, and practitioners with opportunities to present both preliminary and more developed research analysis and reflections, primarily in the social sciences and humanities, related to Thai Studies.
· Dates: 12-14 October 2018; conference will begin at noon on the afternoon of Friday, 12 October.
· Location: Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), University of Wisconsin-Madison, 206 Ingraham Hall, 1155 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706
· Deadline for proposals for presentations: 1 August 2018
· The organizers welcome proposals for individual paper presentations, panels of papers, roundtable discussions, film screenings and other formats as suggested by participants. For individual paper presentations and films, please send an abstract (250 words). For roundtable discussions, please send an abstract (250 words) and list of participants. For panels of papers, please send an abstract of the panel (250 words) as well as abstracts of the individual papers.
Broad strokes : Indonesian art and 20 years of Reformasi by Erin Cook, 22/05/2018, The Interpreter, Lowy Institute
This month, Indonesia commemorates 20 years since the fall of strongman Suharto and two decades of the Reformasi era. Today, the strife of 1998 serves as inspiration for the country’s burgeoning contemporary arts.
Suharto’s New Order period was marked by mass-centralisation of powers in Jakarta, from which Indonesia’s cultural and artistic industries were not exempt. By the end of the Suharto era, any performance or exhibition needed the express permission of no less than four separate offices, including police and military, to go ahead. Cultural researcher Jennifer Lindsay has written that events at the time could be shut down “immediately if considered to have transgressed limits of tolerated political comment, or to have insulted ethnicity, religion, race, or inter-group relations”.
This environment, paired with the government control of all art schools in Indonesia, gave the Suharto administration immense control and influence over works of art produced during this period. Lindsay notes that this control also led to weariness among private citizens who would otherwise be strong patrons of the arts, leaving the country’s artists to navigate the minefield of acceptable subjects, or to look overseas for support.
Suharto’s demise not only freed the nation’s politics but also changed its art scene dramatically. Today, both Yogyakarta and Jakarta are developing reputations as contemporary art hubs in Asia, and Indonesia’s best artists are regularly showcased across the world. For the generation of artists who came of age in 1998 and are now reaching the top of their field, the days of the New Order continue provide ample inspiration, as well as cynicism.
Eko Nugroho is one of the leading artists of that generation. His bright, colourful sculptures, installations, wall art, and embroidery pieces deal with pertinent political issues, from corruption to the environment, and have been exhibited internationally. As a postgraduate student at Yogyakarta’s Indonesian Institute of the Arts in 1998, Nugroho’s work gradually became more political.
“The year was a starting point and a trigger to develop my works, so it was a kind of inspiration,” he told me.
I am part of the generation of artists post-Reformation, which means I am aware of the particular phenomena that took place in this country, and I can scrutinise their development. In those transition times, Indonesia chose democracy, but the Indonesian version of democracy … This idea of having our own version of democracy I find interesting and I often try to raise it in my works. We see and understand democracy through our society, our dynamics, and through the background of our political history, which have all shaped the current situation we are in.
The dark days of the 1965–66 anti-communist purges are a favourite subject for Indonesian artists. Pre-election promises from President Joko Widodo have failed to come to fruition, leaving the hard questions to be asked by practitioners such as Tintin Wulia, whose futuristic installation Not Alone reimagines the conflict 100 years in the future.
Questioning the legacy of the 1965 purges, talk of which was banned under Suharto, through art has become a lightning rod for conflict between the progressive community and conservative civil society groups and police. Yogyakarta, a city proud of its reputation as a place of tolerance, representative of the multiple identities found in Java, is a particular hotspot for protests, prompting an existential crisis.
Still, Nugroho never finds himself short of inspiration, echoing the oft-heard criticism of the Reformasi-era – how different is it really to before?
Even though Indonesia chose this new system, not many things have actually changed. The ways of thinking of those who run the country is still similar to [the New Order regime]. Twenty years is a short time. Those active in the New Order are still in power now.
That spectre influences the contemporary arts scene in Indonesia, Nugroho says. While Indonesian artists are less likely to be imprisoned for political works – a risk still faced by artists in neighbouring countries – there is a widespread and growing sense of self-censorship.
Nugroho believes this is because successive governments have been focused on the economic and political development of Indonesia, leaving fringe elements of civil society to rise unchecked. Younger artists in Indonesia were only children at the time of the upheaval in the late 1990s, and a division between them and artists of older generations has emerged.
Past fears are still brought up by senior artists, while the younger ones use political messages in more obvious ways. But the threats actually come from around us, from the society itself.
Nugroho points to extremist groups such as Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, a local affiliate of the Islamic State, as the “real censors”. Attacks such as those this month in Surabaya “create terror, fear, and anxiety”, and in turn give the government more scope to intervene in the name of security.
While that in itself is not unique to Indonesia, the relative newness of the country’s democracy creates pressure. Nugroho says:
[In Indonesia] everyone is still euphoric about being able to speak out, to criticise, or comment. Everyone talks, but it doesn’t mean they are ready for criticism. Everyone closes their ears. They want their own version of truth. We minimise research and data, and express our ego and personal opinions.
These teething pains have come to define much of Nugroho’s work and Indonesia’s global reputation in recent years.
This sort of democracy becomes interesting for me to observe, translated in my series of works with masks, although not in an obvious way. My works represent the stories I create which I wish the public can understand in their own ways and connect with what they’ve personally experienced, or with events they know.
Thant Sin, Almira and Cuong travel across Southeast Asia to bring to you a unique collection of popular songs with each episode focusing on one country from around the region, from the classics to the contemporary. Whether you are from the region or someone who does not know anything about it, we invite you to join us in our musical journey.
SfSEA – Longing for the Past: The 78RPM Era in SEA Thu, 2018-06-07 23:44
In this episode, Almira shares her top picks from the collection of 90 tracks in David Murray’s 4-CD Box Set / Book ‘Longing for the Past: The 78RPM Era in Southeast Asia’.
Ba Ba Win by Pyi Hla Hpe / Sein Wai Hlan-
Ogingo Mamangka Vuhan by Irene Tungou
Kitjir Kitjir by Jetty & Suhairi / Orkes Gambang Keromong