Best of 2019: Talking Indonesia

Thanks to our podcast guests, and listeners, for helping to make this year the strongest yet for the Talking Indonesia podcast. Here are the 10 episodes that attracted the most interest in 2019.

 

Women and Islamist extremism

Like elsewhere in the world, violent religious extremists in Indonesia are mostly male. But in recent years, more and more female extremists have made headlines as they travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State and planned or perpetrated bomb attacks. In the most-played episode of the year, Dr Dirk Tomsa spoke to Nava Nuraniyah, a terrorism expert from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) in Jakarta, about what drives women to join extremist networks, and what roles they play in these networks.

 

 

Roads, development and violence in Papua

In early December 2018, at least 16 civilians and one soldier were killed in attacks on workers constructing the Trans-Papua Highway in Nduga district in the Papuan highlands. In the wake of the attacks, Dr Dave McRae spoke to Dr Jenny Munro, an anthropologist from the University of Queensland’s School of Science, about how Papuans feel about the government’s infrastructure push in the region, and their place in the Indonesian nation. Published in late 2018, this episode was the second most-played episode of 2019.

 

 

Anti-feminism

In the 2019 legislative elections, several conservative female activists participated as candidates, positioning themselves as anti-feminists and campaigning against perceived threats to traditional morality and religious values. Tomsa spoke to Dyah Ayu Kartika, a researcher at the Center for the Study of Religion and Democracy (Pusad Paramadina), about the women at the forefront of this new wave of conservative female activism.

 

 

Freedom of expression

In 2019, protests against the government were routinely met with repression and intimidation. This was seen in the aftermath of the presidential election, during demonstrations in Papua and in the widespread student protests in late September and early October. Tomsa spoke to the University of Melbourne’s Dr Ken Setiawan about the shrinking space for public dissent under President Joko Widodo, and how rights activists are responding.

 

 

Rice politics

How to provide sufficient rice to a population that consumes large quantities of the staple food – whether through imports or domestic production – is a perennially thorny question in Indonesia, and one tightly bound with the country’s domestic politics. McRae spoke to Associate Professor Jamie Davidson, from the Department of Political Science at the National University of Singapore, whose research compares the politics of rice policy in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

 

 

Democracy for sale

Ahead of the 2019 legislative elections, Dr Jemma Purdey spoke to Dr Ward Berenschot, a postdoctoral fellow at KITLV, Leiden University, about his new book co-authored with Edward Aspinall, Democracy for Sale: Elections, Clientelism, and the State in Indonesia (Cornell University Press). They discussed what often happens behind the scenes of local election campaigns, including systemic vote buying and exchange of favours.

 

 

Palm oil and indigenous peoples

As palm oil plantations expand rapidly across Papua, what are the impacts on the forests and peoples whose cultures and livelihoods are inextricably linked to them? Purdey discussed these issues with Dr Sophie Chao, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Sydney’s School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry and an honorary postdoctoral fellow at Macquarie University, about her research with the indigenous Marind peoples of Merauke district in West Papua.

 

 

Energy

Indonesia is one of the world’s leading emitters of carbon dioxide and the fifth largest producer of coal, both for export and its own domestic use. How can Indonesia wean itself off coal and protect its electricity supply at the same time? What are the prospects for renewables, which currently only make up 7 per cent of Indonesia’s energy mix? Purdey discussed these issues and more with Emanuel Bria, the Indonesia Country Manager at the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).

 

 

The Constitutional Court and elections

The Constitutional Court featured frequently in the headlines in 2019, because of its role in adjudicating – and dismissing – Prabowo Subianto’s challenge to President Joko Widodo’s victory in the presidential election. But the influence of the Constitutional Court in shaping the outcome of Indonesian elections is much broader. McRae spoke to Professor Simon Butt about Prabowo’s failed challenge and more broadly about how the Court has shaped Indonesia’s electoral systems.

 

 

Transnational Indonesian cinema

The Indonesian film industry has experienced a revival over recent years, with production increasing to an average of 120 films per year over the past decade. Indonesian films, directors, actors, and industry professionals are also becoming more well known around the world, in part because of a more integrated global distribution network and web-based streaming services like Netflix. Dr Charlotte Setijadi spoke to Associate Professor Thomas Barker, head of film and television at the University of Nottingham Malaysia, about the recent boom in Indonesian cinema.

 

 

Tim Mann is the editor of Indonesia at Melbourne