Ethnicity in Indonesia

ETHNICITY IN ASIA, Colin Mackerras, ed., pp. 64-87, RoutledgeCurzon, 2003

44 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2008 Last revised: 18 May 2008


The conflictual aspects of ethnic relations will concern us most in this chapter. Until 1998, Indonesia was not among the nations that sprang to mind in studies of ethnic conflict. But when the authoritarian New Order regime collapsed in May 1998, ethnic conflict became the biggest unpleasant surprise for Indonesians aspiring to democracy.

What is the nature of ethnic conflict in Indonesia? Is it a 'one-off' problem of post-New Order transition, or a new and lasting feature of the social landscape? What is being doing about it, and what more could be done? What are some of the international implications? These are among the questions we will address.

This chapter is structured in five parts. In the first, we take a look at the urgent contemporary reasons why ethnicity has suddenly become such a problem for Indonesia. In the second and third, we review some ways in which scholars and policy makers have thought about ethnicity in Indonesia, focussing on an important shift that took place in the early 1970s. In the fourth and fifth parts we go back to some of the most pressing among Indonesia's ethnic questions with the aid of insights we have gained from this review. One of these parts, the heart of the chapter, takes a practical public policy approach, while the other briefly examines the implications of a more radical structural analysis.

Keywords: Indonesia, ethnicity, census, ethnic conflict, Geertz, Fredrik Barth

Suggested Citation

van Klinken, Gerry, Ethnicity in Indonesia. ETHNICITY IN ASIA, Colin Mackerras, ed., pp. 64-87, RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. Available at SSRN:

Gerry Van Klinken (Contact Author)

KITLV ( email )

Reuvensplaats 2
Leiden, 2311BE
+31-71-5272635 (Phone)
+31-71-5272638 (Fax)


Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics