Monday, June 21, 2010

New Books on Indonesia

Here are six recent additions to our Indonesia section:
  • Poverty and Social Protection in Indonesia edited by Joan Hardjono and Nuning Akhmadi et al. This book consists of papers that present the findings of research done by the SMERU Research Institute in Jakarta, Indonesia. Most describe the effects on the poor of the Indonesian economic crisis of 1997-98 and the response of the Indonesian government in the form of a Social Safety Net consisting of poverty mitigation programs. With the gradual recovery of the economy after 2000, the Indonesian government began reducing subsidies for fuel products and has channelled budgetary savings into a new series of targeted social protection and poverty alleviation undertakings that include unconditional cash transfers. The effectiveness of Indonesia's poverty alleviation programmes has, however, been reduced by the difficulty of targeting beneficiaries accurately because of a lack of reliable, up-to-date poverty figures. In many instances unsuitable targeting methodology has been compounded by bad governance at the local level, while the introduction of regional autonomy, accompanied by the decentralisation of authority to the district level, has formed a further complicating factor.
  • Varieties of Religious Authority: Changes and Challenges in 20th Century Indonesian Islam edited by Azyumardi Azra and Kees Van Dijk et al. The 20th century was a fascinating period of profound political, social and economic changes in Indonesia. These changes contributed to the diversification of the religious landscape and as a result, religious authority was redistributed over an increasing number of actors. Although many Muslims in Indonesia continued to regard the ulama, the traditional religious scholars, as the principle source of religious guidance, religious authority has become more diffused and differentiated over time. The present book consists of contributions which all deal with the multi-facetted and multidimensional topic of religious authority and aim to complement each other. Most papers deal with Indonesia, but two dealing with other countries have been included in order to add a comparative dimension. Amongst the topics dealt with are the different and changing roles of the ulama, the rise and role of Muslim organisations, developments within Islamic education, like the madrasa, and the spread of Salafi ideas in contemporary Indonesia.
  • Islamism and Democracy in Indonesia: Piety and Pragmatism by Masdar Hilmy. Most scholarly works conducted within the period of post-New Order Indonesia have underlined the fact that Indonesian Islamists reject the notion of democracy; no adequate explanation nonetheless has been attempted thus far as to how and to what extent democracy is being rejected. This book is dedicated to filling the gap by examining the complex reality behind the Islamists rejection of democracy. It focuses its analysis on two streams of Islamism: the two Islamist groups that seek extra-parliamentary means to achieve their goals, that is, MMI and HTI, and the PKS Islamists who choose the existing political party system as a means of their power struggle. As this book has demonstrated, there are times when the two streams of Islamism share a common platform of understanding and interpretation as well as an intersection where they are in conflict with one another. The interplay between contested meanings over particular theological matters on normative grounds and power contests among the Islamists proves to be critical in shaping this complexity.
  • Building-Democracy on the Sand: Advances and Setbacks in Indonesia edited by Willy Purna Samadhi and Nicolaas Warouw. These nine essays are by academics and analysts associated with Demos, the Indonesian research-based democracy promotion organisation. This, the third Demos study, is based on the extensive 2007 survey of the views of over 900 activists throughout the country and also the results of a similar survey in 2003. Indonesia's democracy is described as a "held back, top-down democracy dominated by elites". Many factors are explored and discussed. It is urged that efforts be made to establish non-party-dominated political blocs to foster more popular representation and participation and to foster the development of democratic decision-making. Detailed tables present the survey methods and findings. Bibliography.
  • Problems of Democratisation in Indonesia: Elections, Institutions and Society edited by Edward Aspinall and Marcus Mietzer. Alternately lauded as a democratic success story and decried as a flawed democracy, Indonesia deserves serious consideration by anyone concerned with the global state of democracy. Yet, more than ten years after the collapse of the authoritarian Suharto regime, we still know little about how the key institutions of Indonesian democracy actually function. This book, written by leading democracy experts and scholars of Indonesia, presents a sorely needed study of the inner workings of Indonesia's political system, and its interactions with society. Combining careful case studies with an eye to the big picture, it is an indispensable guide to democratic Indonesia, its achievements, shortcomings and continuing challenges.
  • Surviving Against The Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia by S. Ann Dunham. President Barack Obama's mother, S. Ann Dunham, was an economic anthropologist and rural development consultant who worked in several countries, including Indonesia. She died in 1995, at the age of 52, before having the opportunity to revise her dissertation for publication, as she had planned. Her dissertation has now been revised at the request of Dunham's daughter, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and the result is Surviving Against All Odds, a book based on Dunham's research into non-agricultural activities in rural Indonesia, namely blacksmithing and other small metalwork industries, over a period of fourteen years among the rural metalworkers of Java. It provides detailed insights into economic anthropology, blacksmithing, and local life and labour in a Javanese village. With bibliography and index.

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