Interpreting Indonesian Politics: Thirteen Contributions to the Debate

Interpreting Indonesian Politics: Thirteen Contributions to the Debate

Interpreting Indonesian Politics: Thirteen Contributions to the Debate

Interpreting Indonesian Politics: Thirteen Contributions to the Debate

Excerpt

The papers in this collection contain the most seminal theoretical thinking about Indonesian politics to have appeared over the past two decades. Some of them have been published before, some not. They have been brought together here in order to make them conveniently available to any who want to understand the evolution of perspectives on Indonesian politics or to contribute further to it. The volume is presented in the same spirit in which the papers were originally written, not to foreclose argument but to open up new approaches to analysis and explanation. There is no finality, but only an effort to know, more or less, where we are in the study of Indonesia.

In selecting the papers the editors, Benedict Anderson and Audrey Kahin, were less concerned with simple consistency of subject matter than with the variety of interpretations and issues that have emerged. What binds the contributions together is a central core of reflection about how foreign scholars have gone about trying to understand Indonesia. But for the rest, the authors are variously occupied. In the first paper Boon describes the enduring influence over three centuries of views of Balinese culture drawn from the tales of early travelers who saw the island through the cultural filters of Christian Europe and Hindu India. The following papers by Benda, Feith, Levine, Mortimer, and Anderson are concerned with related problems of “interpretive frameworks” in their modern academic form. Each deals critically with conceptual approaches to the study of politics in independent Indonesia and the intellectual and ideological influences that have gone into their making. In the next five papers, however, McVey, Kahn, King, Mackie, and Robison concentrate more on Indonesia than on its observers. They are primarily concerned with the contemporary realities of the New Order and appropriate models for interpreting them. Finally, in the last paper, Emmerson, analyzing an . . .

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