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October 2006

In some ways, it is a strange thing to be involved in the study of another country, to be a so-called "area studies" person. This is even more the case when the person doing the study is embedded one way or another in a part of the world whose relationship with the area being studied is built upon colonial and neo-colonial relations. In the case of Indonesian studies, when reading journal articles and English language books sometimes it feels like ONLY non-Indonesians are considered to have anything interesting to say when it comes to analysing Indonesian society. Anything an Indonesian says or writes can become simply an object of study and rarely seen as a help to understanding what is being studied.


Max Lane at a public forum on Indonesian politics, speaking on a panel with former President Abdurrahman Wahid (left), 2002. From


Max Lane at the launch of the PEMBEBASAN newspaper, 2002. Also on the platform former President Abdurrahman Wahid.


Teaching is a challenging experience. You are challenged to present an analysis of one or other topic and draw students into an engagement with your analysis as well as an engagement with the facts of the issue, which they have to pursue themselves through study beyond what you are able to present in 50 minutes of lecture. This is all the more challenging when the issue you are dealing with is an issue about which there is a strong pre-existing “analysis” circulating in society. This was certainly true vis-à-vis the issue of modernity and Asia, a theme in a semester long course which I have now participated in teaching twice, together with two other lecturers.

One of the first things that I asked myself was why were people interested in this theme: Modernity and Asia. There were such courses in universities around the world, but few on “Modernity and Europe” – although perhaps I did not look in the right places to find them. Even a modest, short reflection on this issue points to the fact that in the general discussions about “modernity and Asia”, modernity is always counter-posed to tradition.


Checking through my archives, I came across these two articles and thought they may be interesting to put on the blog.

I am still reading it at the moment, but Clinton Fernandes, author of Reluctant Saviour has just published a new book, Reluctant Indonesians on West Papua.

Click on "more" below to read the articles.


For those who can read Indonesian, below is an article entitled "Challenging the subordination of women", reporting on the NYAI ONTSOROH project. Also see the earlier posting on this project.


Below are details of courses I will be teaching during first semester at Sydney University next year and the courses I am teaching at the moment, 2nd semester, 2006


Below is an article by Dita Indah Sari discussing recent Indonesian government responses to the plight of Indonesian citizens of Leftwing idological persuasion who had their passports revoked in the late 1960s. The revocation of their passports was one of the policies pursued by the Suharto government as part of its suppression of the Left-wing of ideological politics. Since the fall of Suharto in May, 1998, the level and depth of discussion around September 30 increases with each passing year. Click on "more" to read Dita Sari's article.
Dita Indah Sari.jpg
Dita Sari


The 30th September is the anniversary of the attempted mutiny-"coup" organised by Colonel Untung and others. Colonel Untung organised the detention of several senior army officers )generals) in the Indonesian army whom he suspected of plotting against President Sukarno. These moves by Untung failed. As the mutiny against the generals collapsed, the six detained generals were executed. General Suharto, who was not in the list of generals to be detained, organised a counter-move, blamed the whole affair on the Indonesian Communist Party and Sukarno and used his possessiobn of the political initiative to launch one of the most massive violent political purges of the 20th century.

I reprint two earlier articles I wrote and which were published in the Jakarta Post below.


Below is Joeseof Isak's sppechon September 29 on Pramoedya Ananta Toer. It is taken from You will find other trbutes to pramoedya delivered at Ubud on this site.

Remembering Pramoedya Ananta Toer

I am very pleased indeed to be able to participate in this conference which commemorates Pramoedya Ananta Toer who passed away this year at the end of April. As Pramoedya’s editor and publisher during Suharto’s administration – along with my late colleague Hasyim Rachman – I consider it an honour and duty to add my modest contribution to this commemoration of Pramoedya. Such a gathering years ago would have subjected us all to arrest and imprisonment.


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