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Meet 2013 Lemelson Fellowship Recipients

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 fifth set of fellowships to support research in Indonesian Studies.

Gustav Brown
Department of Sociology

Public Islam and Religious Pluralism in Democratizing Indonesia

In my dissertation I examine the highly consequential intersection of democratization and religious revival in Indonesia, with the immediate aim of assessing how this intersection potentially affects both the legal framework for, and everyday practice of, religious pluralism. To what degree has democratization created opportunities for challenges to Indonesian religious pluralism, including acts of violence against religious minorities? Conversely, what forces “protect” and sustain religious pluralism in the face of these challenges? And what, if any, consequences do conflicts over religious pluralism have on its everyday notions of religious inclusion and tolerance?  While religious pluralism appears secure at the level of state, rapid decentralization and consequent gaps in authority have created opportunities at the local-level for organizations that aggressively target religious minorities. In the second part of my dissertation, I examine violent conflicts over Protestant churches that have proliferated since 2004, with the aim of explaining their distinct clustering in metropolitan Jakarta. Finally, I look at the ways in which the concurrent opening of society and growth in outward, conservative religiosity—primarily but not exclusively among Muslims—impacts the relations between Indonesian Muslims and Christians on the level of everyday interaction.

 

Jennifer Goldstein
Department of Geography

Boondoggle, or Benefit? The Commodification of Degraded Landscapes in Indonesia in an Age of Climate Change

Over the past three decades, what is now called the Ex-Mega Rice Project site—approximately one million hectares located in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province—human and ecological processes have transformed the landscape dramatically. Using qualitative methods, I contribute empirically and theoretically to understandings of degraded tropical landscapes and socio-ecological disasters. First, I investigate how classifying an inhabited tropical ecosystem as “degraded” has invited development schemes in Kalimantan historically. Second, I investigate how scientific knowledge—including contemporary climate science—have contributed to biophysical and imaginary landscape degradation in the project site. Finally, I look at how climate change policy has affected recent food security discourses, and how this is realigning local and national political economic priorities.

 


Meghan Hynson
Department of Ethnomusicology

Performing Religion: Wayang Sapuh Leger and the Puppet Preacher in Balinese Hinduism

Meghan Hynson will be utilizing a 2013 Lemelson Fellowship to conduct her dissertation research on an exorcistic form of Balinese shadow puppet theater, wayang sapuh leger. In the Balinese calendar, wuku wayang, or the “week of shadow theater” is an inauspicious time, and it is believed that anyone born during this week is impure and is being chased by the demon of time, Lord Kala. To remedy their inauspicious birth, Balinese born during wuku wayang seek out the exorcism rituals performed by an ordained shadow puppeteer or pemangku dalang. During the wayang sapuh leger performance, music and mantra combine in the telling of the Batara Kala story, culminating with the dalang making holy water and using it to cleanse the person (melukat) in a baptism-like fashion. Meghan’s dissertation will examine the wayang sapuh leger and the gender wayang music that accompanies it to reconstruct a better understanding of the complexities of Balinese religion. The wayang sapuh leger is also used as a lens through which to comment on the historical-political position of divination rituals in Balinese religion, as research into the political history of Balinese Hinduism reveals a discrepancy behind the Indonesian Ministry of Religion labeling local religious practices as adat, or “custom,” even though rituals such as the wayang sapuh leger seem to take on characteristics that are contestably agama, or “religion.”   

 

Rita Rachmawati
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Symbiotic Algae and Coral Bleaching in Indonesia

Indonesia is the largest archipelago nation and center of marine biodiversity. The fact that climate change affects coastal ecosystems and threatens their organisms has attracted my attention for many years. This brought me to do research on coral bleaching that occurs when the coral hosts lose their colors as they expel their symbiotic algae during temperature stress. These unicellular algae live inside their coral host's tissue and provide most of the energy needed by the coral host. I will compare the characteristics of these symbiotic algae among different coral reefs that experienced different level of bleaching events associated with elevated temperatures in Indonesian waters. This research supports a better understanding on the variation of coral's responses to global climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dahlia Gratia Setiyawan
Department of History

United States-Indonesian Relations in Surabaya

I will travel to East Java to conduct targeted research on United States-Indonesian relations in Surabaya between 1963 and 1965. This period of the Cold War saw a decline in these bilateral relations related to domestic and international conflicts over Indonesia’s political direction and American attempts to thwart the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. I seek to gather additional data on the political tensions and outbreaks of violence at the United States Consulate and United States Information Service Library in Surabaya during this period. Through this supplementary gathering of data I will be able to incorporate a discussion of the compelling convergences and divergences between Cold War-era unrest at U.S. diplomatic posts and more recent events such as the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. The research I conduct as a Lemelson Fellow in Indonesia will augment my dissertation’s merit, relevance, and wider applicability. This work will also help facilitate the re-drafting of my dissertation into a book-length manuscript.

 

Sara Simmonds
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

How New Species Evolve on Coral Reefs in Indonesia

The global epicenter of marine biodiversity, called the Coral Triangle, is found in the waters surrounding Indonesia, east to the Solomon Islands. Rivaling the Great Barrier Reef in both area and the sheer number of species, the Coral Triangle is home to thousands of unique corals, reef fishes and other creatures, many of which are unknown to science. The objective of my research is to lend insight into the ways that new species evolve on coral reefs, leading to formation of this biodiversity hotspot. I am particularly interested in a special case of speciation in which close relationships between different organisms, such as parasites and their hosts, promote new species to come about within the same location. I am studying a group of snails that spend their lives attached to corals, living, feeding and reproducing exclusively on certain coral hosts. When these snails shift to living on a new host coral, they have to adapt to survive and over time this could lead to them becoming different from the snails that remained on the original host. I will examine the DNA of these snails to look for signs of adaption to different host corals. Receiving the Lemelson Fellowship will allow me to collect specimens needed to do this work in Indonesia and I will develop labs to teach as part of a genomics course at the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center in Bali. Thus, the experience I gain from this research, as well as the actual data it generates, will be used to teach and train Indonesian students. This will build upon an already strong training program to help Indonesian scientists move into genomics - the cutting-edge of evolutionary biology.

 

Annie Tucker
Department of World Arts and Cultures

Eka Kurniawan's Novel Cantik Itu Luka (Beauty is a Wound)

A 2013 Lemelson Fellowship will support a research and collaborative translation project with the Sundanese author Eka Kurniawan designed to make his first novel Cantik Itu Luka (Beauty is a Wound) accessible to English-language readers and scholars.  At once a romantic tribute to and a scathing critique of the nation's troubled past, the book was first published in 2002 and remains widely read. My activities will include interviews with Kurniawan, literary critics and others in order to obtain a multi-layered understanding of and context for this work.  The fellowship will thus ultimately support both a literary translation and the development of original analysis that might frame its historical, cultural, and literary significance in future publications and presentations.

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