October 22 Event ““Indonesia’s Jokowi Administration: Implications for the U.S. and Beyond:” Photos

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Photographs are now available from the October 22, 2014 event “Indonesia’s Jokowi Administration: Implications for the U.S. and Beyond.” The event featured Marcus Mietzner, Associate Professor at College of the Asia Pacific at Australian National University, and was moderated by Ann Marie Murphy, Senior Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute.

Over the past two years, Professor Mietzner traveled in Indonesia, where he researched political parties. More information can be found in his book, Money, Power, and Ideology: Political Parties in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia.

During the event, Professor Mietzner presented the biography of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was the President of Indonesia between 2004 and 2014. Marcus discussed the fact that inequality in Indonesia is increasing and perhaps is now at its highest point.

The event was co-sponsored by the Southeast Asian Student Initiative (SEASI).

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INTERACT fellow Saskia Schaefer discusses upcoming April 18 event on Islamic Urbanism in Jakarta and Istanbul

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Saskia Schaefer, 2013 – 2014 INTERACT Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Southeast Asian Studies at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and part-time lecturer in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, compares the dynamics between Islam and urbanism in Jakarta and Istanbul. On Friday, April 18, 2014, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life will present a full-day event, organized by Shaefer, that is dedicated to the topic “Islamic Urbanism?: Space, Consumption, and Development in Istanbul and Jakarta.” It will take place from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM in Knox Hall 509. 

 When the Gezi Park protests broke out last summer, I was teaching a class on Islam and Democracy at Humboldt Universität in Berlin. My students discussed the media coverage of the events. The Economist dedicated an issue on the protests, carrying the title: “Democrat or Sultan?,” and observers stressed the cliché schism between Islam and democracy. The more interesting question remains what the protests mean for a politically divided society. As a Southeast Asianist, I was also intrigued by something else: Why is there protest in Istanbul, but not in Jakarta? Public space is shrinking in most cities of the world; formerly public and often neglected areas are turned into shiny private houses, hotels, or business complexes. Whether I am in Istanbul, in Kuala Lumpur, or in Jakarta, schools seem to be moving out of the city centres, and parks seem to be turned into shopping malls. Ironically, the word ‘mall’ was once used for broad, tree-lined promenades. In Jakarta, a concrete jungle of more than 10 Million people, publicly accessible parks are rare. Rather than on tree-lined promenades, wealthy Jakartians take their weekend strolls along the air-conditioned tunnels that link the city’s network of glitzy shopping malls. They browse through silken headscarves and handbags that cost as much as whole houses in the outer islands. They often pay with supposedly Sharia-compliant credit cards. The poorer population feels lucky if they get to work as security personnel or cleaners in these places with their filtered air-systems. When the malls close at night, you’ll see that parts of the city’s pavements are home to those who are even poorer. They are shut out from the consumerist tunnels, and shut out from the gated communities that are mushrooming everywhere. Why then, I wondered, are there no protests in Jakarta?

Last fall, I had the chance to discuss this question with Karen Barkey, the Director of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life here at Columbia. We were intrigued by the disparity of protests and by the phenomena of Islamically-themed public spaces, such as in the form of Muslim gated communities. To learn more about the dynamics between Urbanism, Islam, and newly emerging middle classes, we invited a group of experts on the two cities to hold a panel discussion together. We want to look at the following questions:

Who are the main actors and engineers of current urban developments in major Indonesian and Turkish cities such as Istanbul and Jakarta? What visions of the cities’ futures drive them? Who are the protesters contesting these visions? How are Islam and consumption interconnected with regard to urban space? Who benefits and who suffers from the recent economic growth; what new elites are arising? What are the religious, ethnic and gender dynamics of the new middle classes?

In the full-day event with anthropologists, geographers, historians, and sociologists from Canada, France, Germany, Malaysia, Turkey, and the US, we will address these issues in two panels, one on Urban Planning, and one on Muslim Urban Lifestyles. Throughout the day, there will be ample opportunity to ask questions and to participate in the discussions.

The International Network to Expand Regional and Collaborative Teaching (INTERACT) is a pioneering program at Columbia University that focuses on developing global studies in the undergraduate curriculum through a network of postdoctoral scholars focused on cross-regional, trans-regional and interdisciplinary teaching. Through innovative courses and active involvement in all dimensions of campus intellectual life, the INTERACT scholars seek to improve global literacy among Columbia students and equip them to be leaders in a globalizing world. 

INTERACT fellow Saskia Schaefer discusses her recent Indonesia election research

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Saskia Schaefer, 2013 – 2014 INTERACT Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Southeast Asian Studies at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and part-time lecturer in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, discusses her recent visit to Indonesia to study the country’s 2014 elections.

The International Network to Expand Regional and Collaborative Teaching (INTERACT) is a pioneering program at Columbia University that focuses on developing global studies in the undergraduate curriculum through a network of postdoctoral scholars focused on cross-regional, trans-regional and interdisciplinary teaching. Through innovative courses and active involvement in all dimensions of campus intellectual life, the INTERACT scholars seek to improve global literacy among Columbia students and equip them to be leaders in a globalizing world.     

[During my annual visit to Indonesia, in January of the election year 2014, I meet more pessimists than optimists.]

“Expectations? I am not expecting anything. I didn’t vote last time and I am not going to vote this time. During the first elections, in 1999, I wore a T-shirt with a slogan on it and went campaigning. They promised that we would be paid back all the efforts in cash. But that never happened.” Rudi’s eyes flash as he looks at me through the rear mirror. He is from West Java and has been working as a taxi driver in the capital Jakarta for 12 years. He knows about politics, he follows the debates. But he hasn’t voted since 1999. Asked about the upcoming parliamentarian elections in Indonesia, he smiles resignedly: “What for?”

In the late 1990s, when I first visited Indonesia as a student, most people I encountered were in a euphoric mood. Suharto’s crusted regime had just fallen in 1998, the new temporary president Habibie had been educated abroad and seemed willing to hand over power to democratically elected representatives. The media landscape was transformed into one of the freest in Asia; foreign-funded NGOs were blossoming and spreading an air of progress and optimism. From far, I followed Indonesia’s elections: 1999, 2004, 2009 — all classified as free and fair by international observers. Throughout my time as a student of political science and Southeast Asian history, I spent good parts of my holidays at Indonesian universities. Indonesian students love discussions; they meet and sit down to talk for hours while sipping sugary jasmine tea. They invited me to give small talks; I would find myself surrounded by curious students, keen to jump in and challenge and debate every little sentence. There is an indescribable energy in a room full of young eager students of politics, law, and philosophy who sense that they are living in a time and place in which they can newly shape their country. I remember drawing a circle on a blackboard, surrounded by small boxes: the elections, central to democracy, surrounded by political and civil rights and by the separation of powers. The Indonesian students and I looked at each other and knew that it wasn’t complete. We had a nice and neat model of the wisdom of liberal democratic theory here — but it didn’t help us grasp reality. “Should the elections really be in the center?” somebody asked. I shrugged: “I’m not sure. That’s what I’ve been taught. What do you think?” They weren’t so sure either. And this was what they had been taught too. I have since been trying to find out what else could possibly be in the center. Additionally, or instead.

This rainy season, while Jakarta suffers its annual floods, the Indonesian media is celebrating and watching Joko Widodo — known as Jokowi — the current governor of Jakarta. He is a potential candidate for the presidential elections that are scheduled for July. Famous for his spontaneous visits to slums and hospitals, people see Jokowi as “one of them” and admire the strength with which he seems determined to combat inefficiency and corruption. Another main contender is Prabowo Subianto, a businessman, politician and former Special Forces soldier. His background in business and the military, I was told many times, promises political potency. Neither of them has very detailed policy plans, nor do the other potential and confirmed candidates. Indonesian politics — as increasingly elsewhere — are more about personalities than about parties and their plans and programs. “They’re all the same!” sneered Rudi at the end of our ride.