UI Conferences

International Conference on Nusantara Studies 2016

Ruang Apung Universitas Indonesia's Library

November 24, 2016 – November 25, 2016

Nusantara is a concept of unity in terms of territory, politics, socioculture, economy, law, security and defence, and national policy. Derived from Sanskrit, the term Nusantara comes from the words nusa ‘island’ and antara ‘outer’, which initially refers to the islands outside the Majapahit empire. According to the Book of Pararaton, the term appeared in the famous Amukti Palapa oath taken by Patih Gajah Mada during his appointment as the Prime Minister of Majapahit Empire in 1336 AD. “Lamun huwus kalah Nusantara isun amukti palapa, lamun kalah ring Gurun, ring Serang, Tanjung Pura, ring Haru, ring Pahang, Dompo, ring Bali, Sunda, Palembang, Tumasik, samana isun amukti palapa” (It is only when the Nusantara falls, I shall break my fast. It is only when Gurun, Seran, Tanjung Pura, Haru, Pahang, Dompo, Bali, Sunda, Palembang, Tumasik fall, I shall break my fast), vowed Gajah Mada.

As the term Nusantara is frequently used and the concept has developed to be more dynamical and has always been linked with the situations and conditions of various aspects in its people’s lives, it has become an interesting topic to explore. Geopolitically, in the current synchronic context, Nusantara refers to the area within the territory of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. In 1999, President Abdurrahman designated 13 December as Nusantara Day, which was followed by the issuance of the Decision of the President of the Republic of Indonesia Number 126 of 2001 on Nusantara Day. The dynamics in the use of the term Nusantara have always been a fascinating subject of discussion, particularly related to the role of the people living in a territory with water area wider than its land area and united under one political system, socioculture, economy, law, security and defence, and national policy. In terms of insight, it is interesting to observe whether, as citizens of a largely multicultural society, Nusantara people have any distinctive local wisdom which can contribute to the global world civilization. There is also a trend to study the connection between the concept of Nusantara with the policies of the Indonesian Government which currently focus on upholding its national water sovereignty.

Multiculturalism is a distinctive characteristic of Nusantara. It is such an undeniable fact that Indonesia is a multiethnic and multicultural nation. As many as 1,128 different ethnicities with 742 local languages live in harmony in the country. Where the diversity comes from has always been an interesting topic of study, and numerous hypotheses related to that matter have been made. For example, one hypothesis proposes that the ancestors of Indonesian people came from nations different from the currently known tribes or ethnic groups in Indonesia, while another hypothesis — the one frequently cited in the national history textbooks adopting the “Out of Taiwan” theory–believes that Indonesians originally came from Yunnan, an area situated in the southern part of China. In the meantime, the latest findings, which are supported by genetic and archaeological evidence as well as linguistic hypotheses, from the recent researches, such as the one conducted by Professor Stephen James Oppenheimer from Oxford University in collaboration with a multinational research team, indicated that the people living in Southeast Asia, including the past Nusantara citizens, constantly made great contributions to the early world civilization far before the year 4000 BC (“Out of Sundaland”). Human exodus from Southeast Asian region, including Nusantara, in the past brought their civilization around the world. A large number of diaspora of the people of Nusantara went to different places, bringing their native civilization and creating new ones. This puts forward the hypothesis that Indonesia has played an important role in bringing the world civilization across the globe.

Nusantara has always been open for discussion and research. The International Conference on Nusantara Studies (ICONS) is organized to serve as a forum for international scientific publications on research findings or ideas on Nusantara from various fields and perspectives. The theme of this first ICONS is “Reinventing the Nusantara Concept within Its Roles and Space”.

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