Blog: An Indonesianist’s guide to ICAS 2019

By Tom Hoogervorst

Indonesia is a vast archipelago of 17,508 islands. With more than 265 million inhabitants, about 57% of whom inhabit the volcanic island of Java, it is also the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country. The nation’s capital, Jakarta, holds the world record for the highest Twitter participation, most severe traffic congestion, and fastest rates for land plunging below sea level. At present, the former Dutch colony is home to more than 700 living languages, of which 428 are endangered.

Some of Indonesia’s most famous culinary highlights include a deep-fried, chili-saturated dish called… Okay, comrades, at this point all the non-Indonesianists have probably stopped reading. Great!

As it happens, the following communiqué is chiefly intended for people with an unhealthy fascination for the Emerald of the Equator. It’s no secret that Leiden-bred Indonesianists take pleasure in the tireless peddling of Indonesia-related factoids and statistics in an attempt to promote their research interests (though not necessarily their personalities). Indeed, scholars of other regions – most notably Caribbeanists – can often be spotted rolling their eyes whenever one of us steps into the spotlight, bemoaning the enduring obsession of Dutch people with an archipelago whose inhabitants usually mistake them for Luke and Chontelle from Perth.

But now that I have your undivided attention, let’s cut to the core of the matter at hand. The International Convention of Asia Studies looms on the horizon. It’s the biggest Asia Studies conference Leiden has ever attempted to host. This poses some daunting dilemmas. Will I find my way around the plethora of competing events? Where should I forage for edible food? How can I maximize my week in Leiden in an Indonesia-friendly fashion? For this reason, we’re proud to present the Indonesianist’s Guide to ICAS 2019™, containing our selected picks for Indonesia-related fun!

This handy online schedule will direct you to 18 panels on Indonesia, ranging from community empowerment to the 2019 elections, Indonesian-Dutch scientific collaboration, the Japanese occupation, Marxism, transnationalism, and new approaches to film history. Slightly trickier to find through keyword searches, yet no less relevant, are the following panels: Early Modern Conflict in Island Southeast Asia and Its Global Implications, Adaption and Localisation in Medieval China, Japan and Java, Getting Published on Southeast Asia, Java in Global History, and Transformation of Religion as Reflected in Javanese Texts. Meanwhile, you might want to cheer for your favourite Indonesianist during the ICAS Book Prize ceremony.

Beyond academic panels, Leiden Asia Week will be in full swing. Within walking distance of the conference venue you can find the Leiden University Library, where the Panji–Diponegoro–La Galigo Exhibition (UNESCO Memory of the World) is being hosted. Meanwhile, the National Museum of Ethnology will host breakfast meetings with its curators, followed by a guided tour through the permanent Indonesia display. Leiden’s Textile Research Centre has scheduled unique workshops, including ones on weave structures and Malay batik. In addition, Indonesia will be well represented at the ICAS 11 Film Festival, where the new films Repdeman and Rangsa ni Tonun are being screened and discussed.

Hungry yet? A Food and Cultural Market will be held at Pieterskerkhof and, if you’re lucky, you might encounter some sumptuous skewers of satay amidst the patat and bitterballen.

All in all, we have counted more than 34 wonderful events for you to attend! That’s exactly the same number as there are Indonesian provinces. And river ports. And islands belonging to Kalimantan Utara. Anyway, rest assured that unforgettable times are afoot. Selamat berkonferensi!

(Full disclaimer: Tom Hoogervorst is a semi-tolerated intruder on the ICAS premises who occasionally co-organizes events in exchange for books and coffee.)

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