Universitas Indonesia Conferences, 7th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Interpreting Indonesian Politics
Made Supriatma

Building: Soegondo Building
Room: 707
Date: 2019-07-26 08:00 AM – 09:30 AM
Last modified: 2019-06-18


In summarizing the research on collective violence in Indonesia, Ashutosh Varshney (2006), gives a very important remark. He says, Indonesian violence needs general theories of violence, and the general theories of violence needs Indonesian data. The studies on Indonesian collective violence need to look at theories that have been built out of contributions from scholars from various regions of the world. On the other hand, general theory of violence need to use Indonesian data and variations in order to build a better theory.

Varshney implicitly alleges that scholars who study collective violence in Indonesia are not much involved in debates with experts in field from various parts of the world. He urges for more dialogues and debate that will contribute to innovations in research on conflict and violence in Indonesia. Likewise, the results of Indonesian will enrich the body of theories of ethnic conflict

Much of this assessment is true and can be applied to other fields in Indonesian studies. Indonesianists, an “ethnonym” for those who are studying Indonesia, are often seeing Indonesia as unique and neglecting the need to debate theories built on other countries. There are tensions simmering between Indonesian studies and general theories.

This paper will discuss those tensions in the light of the works of the late Benedict Anderson on Indonesia. Ben Anderson started his career in political science by studying Indonesia. His works covered wide arrays of topics: social movements, the idea of power, charisma, language and politics, and most importantly, nationalism. It is hard to deny that Anderson was inspired by Indonesia when he built his theory on nationalism.