zondag 7 december 2014

Elizabeth Pisani and her Indonesia

Elizabeth Pisani was a special guest of honour at the transfer of the KITLV Library to the University Library of Leiden on 16 October 2014. She was interviewed without too much coordination her self between Henk Schulte Nordholt and DEavid Henly. Pisani arrived in Indonesia as a journalist for Reuters in the later 1980s, lost her visa in the eary 1990s, but returned as a specialist in medical affairs, especially HIV/AIDS and undertook in 2009 a trip through Indonesia.

There are three covers for this book: A European, and American (sawah, rice fields), and this is the Indonesian for Lontar Books.
The first 60 pages are a concise history of Indonesia from late colonialism to the year 2000. She is wonderful in telling complicated things in a short story, without too much details.
60-217 is a trip through East Indonesia, mostly by simple boats. It reminded me of trip I had with Paule in 1997 to Flores and Timor, as far as Maumere, Larantuka (but not to Adonare or Lembata), and in 2009 to Minahasa, Amon and papua. But Pisani is much more radical: she planned a whole year for this trip, worked really in slow motion.. After East Indonesia she went to Aceh (219-248, with many nuances about GAM: idealiism mixed with much violence, criminality and corruption). 
She took opportunities, invitations by common people.
She is sometimes very critical about NGOs, the 'protest industry'. People who behave as if they defend the rights of the 'local popuation'. She was in Halmahera. A new nickel company had arrived, Japanese and French: The NGOs said they werew speaking on behalf of local people who were too scared of reprisals to give their names. When the NGO organized demos, some locals then stages counter-demos in support if the mine. What is here the truth? Were they paid? Threatened? Or did they also see real profits in the arrival of rogeign companies? The two Chinese companies were much worse than the Japanese and French.
Pisani is not keen on religion. 313-342 is about religion. Much is about faith healing, by Muslim and Christians: simple popular belief, mixed with bad knowledge. About the fine varieties in Islam: p. 314: Many learned volumes have been written about the various flavours of Islam. She does not follow these scholars. She is quite negative about any emo-religion, conservative, not a renewal in society.
In Ambon she had visited a Mega Church, GBI (Gereja Baptis Indonesia), ROCK. She summarize its doctrine: 1. It is your duty to spread the name of Jesus; 2. If we wait patiently Jesus will fullfil our demands. That is the simplicity is AA Gym!
She makes also much fun of the sexual attractivity of Gunung Kemukus, near Solo, a traditional sacred place where one must have sex with another than the usual partner: anonymous sex.
In general, she experienced that low class people do not bother about doctrines or convictions of other people. Only the middle class urban people bother about the rise of Salafi Muslims (328): FPI since 1998, PKS after 2002. They are the successors to Pemuda Pancasila that is no longer used by politicians. There is a new power, on the basis of what is called 'morality'.
p. 340 gives a detailed report of Ahmadi people who live in a poor shlter. Some had been chased from their place of living more than 8 times.
For Java she has a report of restoration of classica;l heritage,old buildings in Semarang: a Dutch professor of conservation: he as huge on every axis with satisfactory Mad Professor hair and the look of an man who appreciates a tankard of beer or two.
Nice book, easy reading and it makes 'academic writing' somewhat light!

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