National Online Undergraduate Seminar (NOUS-IS) 6 October 2006

Indonesia: where from, where to, and why?

In the best sense of the adjectives, Indonesia the nation-state is a
marvellous, miraculous construction. At first sight, the material for
national unity could not be more unpromising; the territory of the
present Republic of Indonesia is rent with divisions ranging from the
geomorphic (Sahul and Sunda) and the biogeographical (Wallace’s line)
to the linguistic and cultural, upon which Dutch colonial authorities,
over hundreds of years, imposed their own horizontal and vertical
renditions of divide and rule.

But Indonesia, as concept and as nation-state, endures and is,
perhaps, beginning once again to thrive. This lecture seeks to
discover the origins of the idea of Indonesia in the mid-nineteenth
century and to explore its often vexed and troubled trajectory through
to the present time, with particular reference to its contingent
nature, the various aspirations it has represented, and the
contestations it has endured both before and after the proclamation of
the Republic of Indonesia in August 1945.

R.E. Elson
Professor of Southeast Asian History
School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia 4072
Ph.: +61 7 3365 6369 Fax: +61 7 3365 1968
Mobile: 0401 455 830
Email: r.elson@uq.edu.au

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