Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Floracrats: State-Sponsored Science and the Failure of the Enlightenment in Indonesia

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Floracrats: State-Sponsored Science and the Failure of the Enlightenment in Indonesia

Article excerpt

The floracrats: State-sponsored science and the failure of the Enlightenment in

Indonesia

By ANDREW GOSS

Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010. Pp. ix+256. Notes, Plates,

Bibliography, Index.

This monograph is a detailed examination of the development of scientific research and institutions in Indonesia since the nineteenth century. The author, Andrew Goss, explores the development of botany and its proponents in the Dutch and independent Indonesian governments, and asks why scientists there never achieved global status for their research and discoveries. He argues that the lack of recognition lies in their research being subsumed to the larger bureaucratic needs and policies of the government, which ultimately dampened any spirit of independent inquiry or curiosity. Science was to serve the state, and its limited goals. To support his argument, Goss explores a number of diverse sources from the Netherlands and Indonesia, and uses the Buitenzorg (Bogor) Botanical Gardens as a backdrop to explore the histories of scientists and administrators, from colonial-era naturalist Franz Junghuhn to scientists at the modern Institute of Scientific Research (better known by its Indonesian acronym, LIPI). The result is a detailed, fascinating account of science and scientists in Indonesia and their milieu.

The floracrats is divided into seven mostly chronological chapters, in addition to an introduction and conclusion. In each chapter Goss takes the reader through a distinctive era of scientific research, such as attempts to improve the yield of quinine-producing trees in the 1850s and 1860s, which is the focus of chapter 2, or how the Department of Agriculture during the early twentieth century ignored traditional Javanese agricultural techniques and quickly became a tool through which the government gained control over economic development. …

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