Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago, encompassing nearly eighteen thousand islands. The fourth-most populous nation in the world, it has a larger Muslim population than any other. The Indonesia Reader
is a unique introduction to this extraordinary country. Assembled for the traveler, student, and expert alike, the Reader
includes more than 150 selections: journalists’ articles, explorers’ chronicles, photographs, poetry, stories, cartoons, drawings, letters, speeches, and more. Many pieces are by Indonesians; some are translated into English for the first time. All have introductions by the volume’s editors. Well-known figures such as Indonesia’s acclaimed novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer and the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz are featured alongside other artists and scholars, as well as politicians, revolutionaries, colonists, scientists, and activists.
Organized chronologically, the volume addresses early Indonesian civilizations; contact with traders from India, China, and the Arab Middle East; and the European colonization of Indonesia, which culminated in centuries of Dutch rule. Selections offer insight into Japan’s occupation (1942–45), the establishment of an independent Indonesia, and the post-independence era, from Sukarno’s presidency (1945–67), through Suharto’s dictatorial regime (1967–98), to the present Reformasi period. Themes of resistance and activism recur: in a book excerpt decrying the exploitation of Java’s natural wealth by the Dutch; in the writing of Raden Ajeng Kartini (1879–1904), a Javanese princess considered the icon of Indonesian feminism; in a 1978 statement from East Timor objecting to annexation by Indonesia; and in an essay by the founder of Indonesia’s first gay activist group. From fifth-century Sanskrit inscriptions in stone to selections related to the 2002 Bali bombings and the 2004 tsunami, The Indonesia Reader conveys the long history and the cultural, ethnic, and ecological diversity of this far-flung archipelago nation.