Through a generous gift of Dr. Robert Lemelson, the Indonesian Studies Program, under the auspices of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, has been able to award a third set of fellowships to support research in Indonesian Studies.
The Coral Triangle, a region bounded by Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines, is the center of global marine biodiversity but has suffered dramatic decreases of diversity and habitat in the past few decades. In particular, in Indonesia, the bigfin reef squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana) is a tremendous source of protein and economy for Indonesia (Conservation International report). Despite their economic and ecological importance, not much is known about the diversity of their populations in Indonesia. Biodiversity is generated as populations are separated, either by physical or biological barriers, over long periods of time. For the most part, organisms in the ocean have limited movement as adults, and the largest scale movements are achieved during the larval stage. These tiny larvae travel on ocean currents, however, the patterns of movement are nearly impossible to observe, thus the origins of biodiversity are still shrouded in mystery. To further illuminate this, I am studying the dispersal and diversification of the bigfin reef squid around Indonesia and the Coral Triangle. The (para)larvae of squids and octopuses possess sensory abilities that allow them to direct their movement, unlike most other marine larvae. As mobile migratory adults, they move from feeding grounds to specific spawning grounds for once in a lifetime reproduction. My project focuses on how larval behavior and spawning behavior affects patterns of movement in these squid and aims to determine the processes driving diversity. In the past twenty years, global fish catch has decreased significantly, however, squid catch has increased by nearly 50% (Rodhouse 2006). This shift in fishing pressure highlights the imperative to fully understand how behavior determines dispersal patterns and recruitment in order to make accurate predictions of their movement and population health for management and conservation.
'Minor interculturalism' and the wayang of Slamet Gundono: With the generous support of Dr. Lemelson, I plan to conduct research on the contemporary wayang puppet theatre of Slamet Gundono and the Komunitas Wayang Suket (“the Grass Wayang Community”), located in Surakarta. Since the mid-1990s, Gundono has broadened the horizons of wayang through the use of revived traditions, new media and materials, unconventional performance techniques, and intercultural and interdisciplinary collaboration, emerging as “one of the finest and most innovative puppeteers of his generation” (UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance 2004). The primary purpose of my research trip will be to acquire research materials unavailable in the United States, such as video recordings of Gundono's performances and copies of his critical writings, as well as to interview (and, if possible, play music with) Gundono and members of Komunitas Wayang Suket. My final aim is to complete a paper for publication and presentation on the manner in which Gundono employs hybrid forms not for nationalistic or commercial purposes, but in order to challenge conventional wisdom about and open new perspectives on pressing local issues such as economic and gender inequality, modernization, environmental destruction, and Indonesian cultural identity in the post-New Order era. By increasing awareness of an artist and genre which challenge both dominant narratives of modernization and academic doxa from a standpoint which is at once resolutely local and creatively transnational, I hope this project will show that while the political and aesthetic worlds we inhabit are still far from equitable, they are certainly no longer monopolar.
Producing Value in Indonesia: Quality, Livelihoods, and Mediating Middlemen in the Pacific Coffee Trade: As the third-largest producer in the world, Indonesian coffee production is closely watched by transnational trading companies. But in recent years, the taste of coffee from the island of Sulawesi has been debated within the global specialty coffee industry. While many farmers and importing and retailing companies maintain that the taste of this coffee should remain rough, dirty and earthy, others, including some agricultural development policy makers, contend that Sulawesi coffee should taste more refined. The beans could, in other words, taste “good” rather than “bad,” and thus fetch higher prices, if only better infrastructure and processing methods were used, irrespective of indigenous knowledge or desired labor practices. But who truly decides which beans taste good and which bad, and how is this reflected in coffee’s global market value? Employing a multi-site ethnographic methodology, my project shows how cultural and economic knowledge passed between commodity chain actors determines the taste of Sulawesi coffee, and how these value-making decisions affect Indonesian coffee producers’ livelihoods and environmental practices. Using empirical, qualitative data collected from interviews with coffee growers and middlemen, as well as from participant-observation in each stage of coffee production during fieldwork in Indonesia, I argue that Indonesian coffee-trading middlemen are a key factor in determining the value of Sulawesi’s coffee, and that their conceptions of what quality coffee is creates and mediates the financial value of the beans themselves.
Nations’ efforts to monitor their subjects, such as attempts by state authorities to manage and administer to populations through programs and planning, is an historically important topic. Through archival research in Indonesia, I seek to understand the contrasts and comparisons of state-level monitoring of Indonesians in their homeland during the 20th Century and in the United States following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Via the collection of original oral histories, I furthermore wish to determine how individuals who were monitored have been personally affected by such initiatives. A 2011 Lemelson Fellowship will permit me to successfully conclude my dissertation fieldwork, an accomplishment that will not only facilitate the completion of my graduate studies but will moreover result in the creation of strong foundations for my future career as a historian of Indonesia.
This project will investigate a grammatical process in Indonesian called nasal substitution, in which verb stems may undergo a phonological change when certain prefixes are attached to them. Nasal substitution is generally straightforward in Indonesian, but variability exists for some forms, especially for words borrowed from other languages. The first part of the study will examine factors that are likely to affect whether borrowed words undergo nasal substitution (e.g., word frequency). The second part will involve work with native speakers to find out whether they will display tacit knowledge of these factors in experimental tasks. This research will add to our knowledge of the Indonesian language while also contributing to our understanding of how the human mind organizes language in general. Receiving the Lemelson Fellowship will allow me to travel to Indonesia, providing me with access to many native Indonesian speakers, which is critical to the success of this project.
Published: Thursday, May 05, 2011