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Knowing Indonesia from Afar: Indonesian Exiles and Australian Academics

Hill, D.T. (2008) Knowing Indonesia from Afar: Indonesian Exiles and Australian Academics. In: 17th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia: Is this the Asian Century?, 1-3 July 2008, Melbourne, Australia pp. 1-13.

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The violent lurch in 1965-66 from Sukarno’s Guided Democracy and to Suharto’s New Order was a dramatic and unparalleled turning point in Indonesia’s domestic politics and international relations. Coming at the height of the Cold War, it triggered a major international realignment for Indonesia as the state froze relations with former allies like China and the Soviet bloc, to embrace the West warmly, including Australia. Among the victims of this seismic diplomatic shift were the many hundreds, if not thousands, of Indonesian leftists trapped abroad who, if they chose to return to their homeland, would face the imprisonment or death that had been suffered by their political comrades. In their search for political refuge they scattered across states in Asia and Europe, relocating as host states’ international alignments shifted in the Cold War’s thaw. Yet for decades these exiles lobbied, wrote and published a wide range of material, including about their experiences in exile and their analyses of Indonesian politics. This paper will tentatively broach a collective silence, or at least an apparent lack of academic study, about Indonesian political exiles. It is not its proposition to compare experiences of these exiles with the victims in Indonesia killed and imprisoned for years without trial. Instead, it poses the curious question of why so little attention was directed at exilic communities (and why so few academic connections were fostered) when their existence was relatively common knowledge – or at least a matter of rumour or occasional note – amongst Australian Indonesianists. Instead, Indonesian exiles and Australian academics maintained very separate perspectives, while both ‘knowing Indonesia’ from afar.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Asia Research Centre
School of Arts
Publisher: Unpublished
Copyright: The Author
Conference Website:
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