Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Many Faces of Indonesia: Knowledge Production and Power Relations

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Many Faces of Indonesia: Knowledge Production and Power Relations

Article excerpt

Abstract

Conceptualizations of modern Indonesia were active agents in shaping the way we saw the present Indonesia and its problems. This study is concerned with some major conceptions of modern Indonesia, namely, the primordial sentiments thesis, the transitional stage thesis, the historical structural thesis, and the cultural imperialism thesis. Our specific interest was on comparing the way they treated the Indonesian state and society. It is our argument that involvement of scientific knowledge in the formation of modern Indonesia had been a complex process: scientific knowledge intertwined with common sense in power relations. This had meant Indonesian societies and identities could never be considered to have been monolithic.

Keywords: knowledge, power, modernization, developmentalism, postcolonial, Indonesia

1. Introduction

This paper is an attempt to examine four sociological concepts of modern Indonesia, namely, the primordial sentiments thesis, the transitional stage thesis, the historical structural thesis, and the cultural imperialism thesis produced since the mid of 1960s. Although most of the mainstream concepts were different from one another, they had been created on the same grand narratives, that is, the modernization perspective. Modern Indonesia had never been naturally developed. Social analysis and political engineering had been observable in organizing Indonesia and the identities of Indonesians. Whether we like it or not, it was Western European and North American intellectuals that had helped create modern Indonesia - on the idea of the state as a survival unit.

The 21st century, however, had changed the map of scientific knowledge, established since the 17th century. Various postcolonial ideas had challenged modernization theories, and this had opened up new venues to understand and change Indonesia. Unfortunately, oppositions to postcolonial thesis of Indonesia remained strong. As a matter of fact, the majority of Indonesian intellectuals need to familiarize themselves with the thesis. It is the aim of this paper to offer an alternative explanation about the conception of modern Indonesia that became taken for granted in the academic discourse. Our position is clear: knowledge is not neutral, knowledge is always related to power and knowledge as both a means of communications and also a means of orientation (Samuel, 2010). It is our aim to deconstruct the linkage between the knowledge production of four theses of modern Indonesia and its relation to power.

1.1 Relevant Previous Studies about Knowledge and Power Relations in Indonesia

There are few previous studies about the knowledge production especially sociology and its relation to power in Indonesia specifically made by Indonesian scholars. Four of them deserve mention in this article, they are The Development of Sociology in Indonesia : The Production of Knowledge, State Formation and Economic Change (Samuel, 2001), Cendekiawan dan Kekuasaan dalam Negara Orde Baru (Intelectuals and Power in The New Order State) (Dhakidae, 2003), Social Science and Power in Indonesia (Hadiz & Dhakidae, 2005) and Negara, Universitas dan Banalitas Intelektual: Sebuah Refleksi dari Dalam (State, University & Banality of Intelectuals: an Insider's Reflection) (Nugroho, 2012).

Samuel (2001) examined the production of Indonesian sociology from the Dutch era until the era of the New Order, eclectically using perspective from Foucault, Elias and Said. One of his contributions is how he described the shift of the knowledge producer of Indonesian sociology from the Indologist to the Indonesianist, it also reflected the shift of dominant power from Dutch to American. As pointed out by Connell (2007), it shows the phenomenon of grand erasure resulted from the unequal power relation between Metropole and Periphery. While Dhakidae (2003) and Hadiz and Dhakidae (2005) explained the relation between power especially represented by the state (New Order Regime) and the production of social science in Indonesia. …

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