Ambassador's Visit Commences Active Quarter for Indonesian Studies


Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal, Indonesia's top representative to the United States, wants to double the number of Indonesians studying in this country, he said at a March 28 presentation to UCLA students and leaders. The visit comes as UCLA's Indonesian Studies Program prepares to host a series of public events grappling with the nation's past.

Indonesian Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal, the top diplomat from the world's largest majority-Muslim nation to the United States, concluded a March 28, 2011, visit to UCLA with a presentation before about 40 invited students, faculty members and administrators in Murphy Hall. That morning the ambassador met with UCLA officials including Chancellor Gene Block, Vice Provost for International Studies Randal Johnson, and Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) Director Michael Ross to explore possible educational partnerships between the campus and Indonesian universities.

"One of our missions here is to double the number of Indonesian students studying in America," said Ambassador Dino in response to a question, adding that those figures have dropped by nearly half over the last two decades, even as the enrollment of Indonesians in Chinese universities rose from practically none to about 8,000. Today, more Indonesians go to college in China than in the United States.

"In the area of soft power, China's outreach has been the most significant in Southeast Asia in the last 10 or 20 years. They've been very, very active," he said.

Ambassador Dino (right) chats in Murphy Hall with M. Din Syamsuddin, a UCLA-trained political scientist who leads an Indonesian Muslim organization claiming 35 million members.

Ambassador Dino (right) chats in Murphy Hall with M. Din Syamsuddin, a UCLA-trained political scientist who leads an Indonesian Muslim organization claiming 35 million members.

Stanley Chandra, a UCLA chemistry major from Malang, Indonesia, said after the talk that he was encouraged by the ambassador's optimistic vision of global cooperation in the coming years, including an expanding U.S.-Indonesian relationship in higher education and other fields.

The ambassador's visit comes at an especially active period for the study of Indonesia on campus. With a gift from Robert Lemelson, a UCLA research scientist and lecturer who also earned his doctorate in anthropology from UCLA, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies in fall 2008 launched a dedicated program on the country. Every year a group of six or more graduate students travels abroad to do fieldwork and archival research about Indonesia.

The Indonesian Studies Program also invites international scholars to campus and hosts lectures and conferences. This April 15-16, it will sponsor a public workshop about the legacies of mass killings in Indonesia and East Timor. History Professor Geoffrey Robinson, who chairs the program's steering committee, emphasizes that the "workshop" is open to anyone interested in the broad topics of human rights and post-conflict reconciliation.

As Robinson pointed out, these are concerns that students of many corners of the world – South Africa, Haiti and Egypt, among others – will have to think through, because large-scale abuses and killings leave long-lasting scars on societies, even where peace breaks out and authoritarian rulers are gone.

"You don't just sort of get rid of somebody and all the problems go away," he said.

The relatively little-discussed Indonesian massacre of 1965 and its survivors are the subject of a chilling documentary directed and produced by UCLA's Lemelson. "40 Years of Silence: an Indonesia Tragedy," which examines the massacre's aftermath from a clinical psychologist's perspective, will be screened at the workshop, on the evening of Saturday, April 16.

Among other events on its calendar, the program on April 7 will host a renowned archaeologist, Pierre-Yves Manguin of the Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO, French School of Asian Studies), for a lecture about the ancient civilization of Srivijaya and its contributions to seventh-century Buddhist art.

Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2011