Through a generous gift of Dr. Robert Lemelson, the Indonesian Studies Program, under the auspices of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, has been able to award a fourth set of fellowships to support research in Indonesian Studies.
Democratization and Indonesia’s Religious Revival
Gustav Brown’s dissertation examines the interaction between on-going processes of democratization and Indonesia’s religious revival, with a particular focus on conceptualizations and contestations over Islam’s role in the undifferentiated Indonesian public sphere, and in the organizational dynamics of Islam, as well as religion more generally, in Indonesian civil society. Special attention will be paid to discourses on and debates over the “proper” relationships between religion, on the one hand, and democracy, nationalism and pluralism on the other, as well as the more subtle impact “everyday Islamization” may have on notions of inclusion and exclusion among Indonesians of all faiths. This project will contribute to the comparative social science literatures on religious politics and democratic consolidation, as well as to the literature on Islam and politics during Reformasi era. Given that Indonesia is the largest majority-Muslim society in the world, and the world’s third largest democracy, this project will also have broad implications for comparative studies of religion and democracy in Muslim-majority societies. Finally, it may suggest models for a broader understanding of the role of religion in plural, democratizing states.
Gerilya budaya (“cultural guerillaism”): Experimental theater and community advocacy in Surakarta, Central Java
With the support of the Lemelson Fellowship on Indonesia, I plan to engage in several weeks of participatory research with Komunitas Tanggul Budaya, a performance and cultural advocacy group in Surakarta's Danukusuman area. Danukusuman is a poor neighborhood, and does not have access to the cultural institutions enjoyed by wealthier communities; Komunitas Tanggul Budaya was founded by Joko Bibit Santoso, a long-time Danukusuman resident and leader of the renowned avant-garde performing arts ensemble Teater Ruang, in order to address this inequity. The organization maintains an informal cultural center consisting of a theater space, a small library, and a gamelan practice room, in which they hold community gamelan practices, readings of Indonesian literature, and childrens' art events. I will be able to document a wide range of performances, producing audio and video documents and conducting ethnographic interviews which will facilitate comparative analysis. I intend for this research to culminate in a published paper on Komunitas Tanggul Budaya’s redemptive concept of culture as inextricably interwoven with the life of the community, as well as helping form the basis for a future comparative research project on socially conscious theater in Indonesia and Okinawa.
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Evolution in the Coral Triangle
Indonesia is located at the heart of the Coral Triangle, a region of the Indo-Pacific Ocean known for its high species richness. The goal of my research is to determine what processes have caused so many species to evolve in the Coral Triangle. I have chosen to study nudibranchs, commonly called sea slugs, because of their amazing diversity of shapes and colors and their strong associations with corals. To understand what I mean by their amazing diversity, one only has to do a Google images search on nudibranchs. Their brightly patterned bodies and interesting shapes are enough to spark anyone’s curiosity. I am interested in the genus Phestilla, which consumes and lives on a coral host. I am studying how the process of shifting to a new coral host species can result in the formation of a new nudibranch species. I will do this by analyzing the genomic divergence between species on different hosts to identify adaptation to those hosts.
Land Use in Central Kalimantan
Over the past two decades, what is now called the Ex-Mega Rice Project site—approximately one million hectares located in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo—was envisioned first as a landscape of food production for feeding the nation, then as a toxic, carbon-spewing catastrophe, and now as a resilient and restorable ecosystem, a hotspot for global climate change research and financial investment. Corresponding with each of these interpretations, the landscape itself has been dramatically and rapidly transformed. What caused these successive transformations, and why have international eyes been drawn to this seemingly marginal place? I will use the Lemelson Fellowship to conduct ethnography in Central Kalimantan, interview climate scientists studying the region, construct the region’s socio-ecological history, and analyze government and NGO discourses on pertinent policies and practices to make three interrelated arguments about the mechanisms of this transformation. I employ a temporal case study comparison to argue first, that imagining or classifying a landscape as “degraded,” by both humans and climate, has invited certain types of re-development schemes and ecological commodification throughout Kalimantan’s history. Second, that the rise of contemporary climate science, its methodologies and technologies, and an emerging global discourse on climate change vis-à-vis tropical deforestation have contributed to landscape transformation, both imaginary and physical, in the Ex-Mega Rice Project site. Third, I argue that climate change science and policy intersect, contest, and supplant discourses on food security and sovereignty, and that this occurs in different ways at different scales. All of these arguments have implications for future land use across Indonesia, and the tropics more generally, as degraded forest land becomes increasingly re-commodified in an age of climate change-driven policy and science.
Culture and Performance
Indonesian Angklung and its Application in World Music Education
While American music educators have spent the past few decades developing multicultural materials in order to bring the world into their classrooms, Indonesian music educators have tackled a microcosm of this challenge while developing a system of music education to unify their diverse archipelago. In order to combat the vast musical differences existing amongst each of Indonesia’s islands, the diatonic scale was adapted and applied to a bamboo idiophone called angklung. In this way, songs from throughout the country and the rest of the world could be played, sung, and taught to children on the instrument, leading the Indonesian government to recognize angklung as an official musical education tool in 1966 and UNESCO to recognize angklung as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010. Considering the importance of angklung for Indonesian music education and its bridge to the West via the diatonic scale, this project will explore angklung and its application in world music education. In addition to researching the feasibility of using angklung in the classroom, Indonesian folk song examples will be collected and a method for how angklung can be paired with other international music education methods such as Orff and Kodaly will be developed. Research related to the project will also include the rising importance of world music education, and the impact that instruments such as angklung have had in cultural diplomacy efforts between Indonesia and other nations. This research will be presented at the education section of the 2012 Society for Ethnomusicology annual conference in New Orleans.
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Fish Diversity in the Coral Triangle
The Coral Triangle, an area that spans the Indonesian archipelago, is the global epicenter of marine biodiversity and is home to more species of reef fish than any other region in the world. Although the extreme abundance of marine species in this area can be attributed to speciation events triggered by the physical isolation of populations, this explanation cannot account for the divergence of populations that inhabit the same sites. While fish coloration is often species-specific and used extensively in taxonomy, examples of widespread species comprised of various color morphs abound. Work on Carribbean reef fish has demonstrated that genetically distinct color morphs mate assortatively: individuals of a given color morph selectively mate with individuals of the same morph group. This behavior can serve to reinforce species boundaries at sites where different species co-occur, effectively preventing hybridization between the two species by ensuring that individuals of a given color morph lineage mate only with others of the same morph lineage and, consequently, the same species lineage. Color polymorphism is also seen in Indonesian reef fishes such as Chrysiptera hemicyanea and Chrysiptera parasema, whose widespread ranges overlap significantly. Using genetic data, my research will determine if the subtle morphs of Chrysiptera hemicyanea and Chrysiptera parasema constitute distinct genetic lineages, which would suggest that color polymorphism is serving as an effective genetic barrier that has promoted the divergence of these species despite their overlapping distribution. Identifying the genetic differences that underlie morphological differences in populations can provide insight to long-standing questions about the emergence and accumulation of marine biodiversity within the Coral Triangle and about the process of speciation in the marine environment. An understanding of the processes that result in speciation and increased biodiversity within the Coral Triangle is critical to the development and successful implementation of efforts to conserve this remarkable and critically endangered ecosystem.