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On Rising Fear, Anxiety, and Producing the “Other” in Indonesia

The Northeastern Conference (NEC) on Indonesia is an initiative of the Yale Indonesia Forum (YIF) and the Cornell Indonesia Student Association (CIA). The 19th Northeastern Conference in New Haven is organized by the Yale Indonesia Forum and funded by the Council on Southeast Asia Studies (CSEAS) at Yale University.

The Yale Indonesia Forum (YIF) seeks to address the issues of rising fear and anxiety, marginalization, and otherization in Indonesia from diverse disciplinary and methodological perspectives. How have categories of proper Indonesianness been historically constructed, and whom have they excluded? What are the historic and contemporary sources of societal anxiety in Indonesia? What new opportunities for and challenges to mutual understanding have emerged since the rise of human rights discourses? Are there clear victim-perpetrator binaries when it comes to otherization, and in what ways do targets of marginalization stake their claims to belonging? Can we predict what social categories will be the next targets?


In the throes of Jakarta’s gubernatorial election campaign of 2017, mass opposition arose against then-governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, for his alleged blasphemy against the Quran. Ahok’s subsequent election loss and arrest carried uncomfortable echoes of the past. The animosity directed towards the Christian and ethnically Chinese governor sparked fears that Indonesia’s ethnic and social tensions were dangerously resurgent.  Indeed, the creation of a distinct “Other” against whom to direct societal anxieties has taken various forms in Indonesia, including the portrayal of the ethnic Chinese as unscrupulous opportunists, the depiction of communism as the source of all social ills, and more recently, the panic over LGBT populations being a supposed source of moral decay. 

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Hosted by: 

  • Yale Indonesia Forum

  • Cornell Indonesia Student Association

  • Yale Council On Southeast Asia Studies