From Indonesia’s Department of You Couldn’t Make It Up

The department of You Couldn’t Make It Up has been working overtime in Indonesia lately. Parliament has just confirmed a notorious corruption suspect to head the police, and the President thinks he can make fishermen richer by sinking ships.


Indonesian art lives, though not in overseas museums

Unless they are credited to someone else, most of the images in these blog posts are photos I took myself and let’s face it, they don’t really do justice to the visual glories of Indonesia’s many cultures. So I was delighted to learn that the Asian branch of the Smithsonian museum, the Freer/Sackler galleries, have made images of the objects in their collection available for non-commercial use….


Best Books 2014 lists underline Indonesia (Etc.)’s diversity

Forgive this brief post from the Department of Self Promotion, but I can’t help being a little pleased that The Economist, the Wall Street Journal and the lovely Longitude books have picked Indonesia Etc. as one of the best books of 2014. I’m thrilled, too, that I’ll get to talk about Indonesia at the glorious Asia Society in New York on Monday December 15 (if you’re in town, please come along). What’s especially fun about the “Best ofs” is that…



Indonesia today: No adult supervision

Watching Indonesia from far away through the filter of the Twittering classes and foreign news coverage, it’s hard not to be mildly despairing that new president Joko Widodo’s promise of a Mental Revolution has melted so quickly back into playground politics.


In the name of God [bad things happen]

Does it matter to the police what religion I profess? Or to the people who are processing health insurance cards, or to the airline staff checking that I match the name on my ticket? Yes it does, is the implication of Indonesia’s rule that a citizen’s religion must be stipulated on their ID card.


Is Twitter a substitute for activism, or a platform for corruption?

Having spent plenty of time observing corruption first-hand in Indonesia, I’ve recently started to read more about what the boffins say. By boffins, I mean institutions such as the World Bank who write prescriptions for countries sick with corruption, and the academics who analyse such prescriptions and point out why they don’t cure the patient. In the latter group is Roberto Laver. He points out that the corruption medics have essentially confined themselves to prescribing two things: institutional reform and…


Jokowi’s first task: undermine dynasty politics

Tomorrow ushers in a new era for Indonesian politics. For the first time since 1957, when then president Sukarno did away with parliamentary democracy, the country will have an executive and a legislature that have different loyalties. But for the first time, too, there may be a chance of amputating the ageing hands that have so leadenly guided the nation’s political parties for the past decade and a half.


Indonesia Etc. enhanced eBook is out now!

Indonesia is one of the most visually compelling countries in the world: blue flames leap out of the side of sulphurous volcanoes, scarlet blood splatters into the dust between megalithic tombstones, the silvery eye of a giant tuna fish reflects the shining sea. In Indonesia Etc: Exploring the Improbable Nation, I have tried to capture this kaleidoscope land in black ink on white paper. But technology now provides us with a new world, a world where a writer’s words can…