Talking Indonesia: Alfred Wallace and human development

In the 1850s and 1860s, British naturalist Alfred Wallace travelled to the islands that have become modern day Indonesia, recording what he saw in the famous travelogue, The Malay Archipelago. Based on his observations, Wallace identified the Wallace Line, separating the distinct flora and fauna of eastern and western Indonesia, and – along with Charles Darwin – authored the theory of natural selection.


As Dr Jeff Neilson explains in this week’s podcast, Wallace’s ethnographic observations in the Malay archipelago led him to a different understanding of natural selection to Charles Darwin. Dr Neilson is now retracing Wallace’s footsteps 150 years later, exploring the relevance of “a Wallacean worldview” for the study of present-day sustainable livelihoods.


Dr Jeff Neilson is a senior lecturer in geography at the University of Sydney and Indonesian coordinator of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre.


This is the first episode of the fortnightly Talking Indonesia podcast for 2016. Look out for the next episode on 28 January, featuring new co-host Dr Ken Setiawan, my colleague at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute. Ken and I will alternate as hosts throughout 2016.


Catch up on previous Talking Indonesia episodes here, subscribe via iTunes or listen to the entire Talking Indonesia podcast via Stitcher.


Sunset over the Wallace Line. Photo by Richard Geddes.


Dave McRae is a Senior Lecturer at the Asia Institute in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne. He is also an Associate at the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society.