Facts, Minds, and Formats: Scholarship and Political Change in Indonesia
Southeast Asia Program director Donald K. Emmerson's essay by the above title appears in the just-published volume, Producing Indonesia: The State of the Field of Indonesian Studies, ed. Eric Tagliacozzo, available for purchase at the Cornell University Press.
The book's authors, to quote the publisher, reflect on "the development of Indonesian studies over recent tumultuous decades...Not everyone sees the development of Indonesian studies in the same way. Yet one senses—and this collection confirms—that disagreements among its practitioners have fostered a vibrant, resilient intellectual community."
The disagreements featured in Emmerson's chapter, to quote him, "arose over how to interpret two consequential changes of regime in Indonesia," namely, "the demise of liberal democracy and the rise of President Sukarno's leftward 'Guided Democracy' in 1959, and the latter's replacement by General Suharto's anti-leftist 'New Order' starting in 1965." At stake in these controversies were facts, minds, and formats: "perspectival commitments developed inside the minds, disciplines, and careers of professional analysts of Indonesia."
At the center of his essay lies a consequential question of choice: whether to maintain or to change one's argument in the face of evidence against it. The issue is framed at the outset of the essay by two contrasting quotations:
“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
-- John Maynard Keynes on the Great Depression
"I didn't change. The world changed."
-- Dick Cheney on 9/11
About the Essay
The 26 scholars contributing to this volume, Producing Indonesia: The State of the Field of Indonesian Studies, ed. Eric Tagliacozzo, have helped shape the field of Indonesian studies over the last three decades. They represent a broad geographic background—Indonesia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, Canada—and have studied in a wide array of key disciplines—anthropology, history, linguistics and literature, government and politics, art history, and ethnomusicology. Together they reflect on the “arc of our field,” the development of Indonesian studies over recent tumultuous decades. They consider what has been achieved and what still needs to be accomplished as they interpret the groundbreaking works of their predecessors and colleagues.
This volume is the product of a lively conference sponsored by Cornell University, with contributions revised following those interactions. Not everyone sees the development of Indonesian studies in the same way. Yet one senses—and this collection confirms—that disagreements among its practitioners have fostered a vibrant, resilient intellectual community. Contributors discuss photography and the creation of identity, the power of ethnic pop music, cross-border influences on Indonesian contemporary art, violence in the margins, and the shadows inherent in Indonesian literature. These various perspectives illuminate a diverse nation in flux and provide direction for its future exploration.