Tag: identity

Recalling my Trip to Indonesia

It was last year that me and my friends decided to go to Indonesia as a destination for our graduation trip. We mainly visited Bali island and Central Java that have a lot of fascinating culture, extensive history and cultural properties.


Although the majority of people belong to muslim in Indonesia, they do not establish Islam as the national religion. Namely Indonesian have religious liberty. As prof. van der Meer Indicated us the religions in Indonesia with a map, the religions are varied depends on the regions in Indonesia. Despite Indonesia having a Muslim majority, Bali remains one of the islands in Indonesia that boast a Hindu majority. Likewise protestantism, catholicism, and buddhism are spread throughout in Indonesia. Though I did not know such a religious diversity in Indonesia at that time, I somehow figured out that Bali and Java have different religions because each places looked very different. For instance, as soon as I arrived at the airport in Bali, I found woven baskets filled with colorful flowers or rice on the floor. I thought it was just traditional decoration at that moment but I found many of them as well while I was walking in the city. It turned out that they are small offering baskets called “canang sari” which Balinese offer to their HIndu Gods. Also I felt Bali is one of the most liberal places in Indonesia, where people can drink alcohol and eat pork, unlike in other places in Indonesia.


In the suburbs of the city Yogyakarta in the island of Java, I saw many religions lived together as Prof. van der Meer mentioned in the lecture; cathedral, church, Chinese temple, Buddhist temple and Hindu temple. I actually visited Prambanan temple and Borobudur temple during my trip in Indonesia. Prambanan is a 9th century Hindu temple and Borobudur is the largest buddhist temple which is also compounded around 9th century. Borobudur is registered as one of the World Heritage and I was really amazed to see the decoration with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. Moreover it made me surprise to see those two different religious temples were co-existing within 40km since a long time ago. This is impressive and it also tells us the importance to respect each religions and live together harmoniously as Indonesia has proved.


Related to Indonesian culture and history, I remembered the lecture I took back in my college. The professor in the lecture presented us the history textbook which Indonesian high school students use. The professor explained us that the history textbook stresses on the strength of Indonesian people’s patriotic spirit which never succumb to threats of colonization.The textbook aims to foster national identity through the history education and I think this emphasis influenced by the nationalist movement under long colonization. It was interesting to see the difference in educational textbooks because I have never seen those descriptions in Japanese history textbook, where only facts happened in past are chronologically described. Despite historically Indonesia had been struggling of interference by several countries, I believe there were still something other countries could not change them, which was their own core values and cultural identities.

Origins of Southeast Asian National Identity

Professor Arnout Van der Meer came to our class to speak to us today about the Indonesian nationalism. Van der Meer talked about how the Southeast Asian countries are overlooked but considers these countries such as for as Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Borneo, and etc…as one of the most diverse and crucial areas for trade, religion, and culture. Various religions, cultures, technology, and commodities from the West, the Middle East, and East Asia came to all one place which was located in the countries that were bordering the Java Sea. Professor Van der Meer mentions how colonialism was the start of how it made the Southeast Asian region a multi-cultural hub.

In the lecture, Professor Arnout Van der Meer talks about the national identity of Indonesia from colonialism. He talks about Soemarsono, as an instrumental figure in looking at Indonesian identity. He famously said that lighting the oil lamp represents Indonesia. Wick is like our Buddhist Heritage. Lamp oil is like Islam and Islamic modernism. The lampshade is like Dutch Wester culture (Science & Technology). He says we need to one last thing which is too light the oil lamp which represents regaining Indonesian national identity. Soemarsono was the one who sparked the socio-political emancipation of Javanese. Soemarsono’s revolt overhauled the system of cultural hegemony. This sociological revolution can be considered the origins of national awakening in Indonesia.

Personally, a fascinating part of the lecture was Soemarsono’s biography and how he came to embody his own metaphor. He helped spark the national awakening in Indonesia. He also comes from a well-respected, wealthy, and well-educated family. He was from an aristocratic family of the Javanese. He is also a practicing Muslim. Soemarsono surprisingly had a western education, and he was one of four Indonesians to go to a foreign international school of high privilege. Soemarsono grew up with foreign and Dutch students. Soemarsono’s political ideology for Indonesian national identity is the Asian Modernity, which is to maintain own traditions rooted in Hindu-Buddhist past meanwhile, adopting western science and technology. The second was to have Islamic morality which is a proper form of behavior such as, no alcohol, opium, and gambling. Finally, he believed in democracy and equality and a modern form of government. Later on, he ended up having a civil service career in Batavia, Indonesia.

Professor Arnout Van der Meer mentions that “The Onion Theory, ” can explain for the national identity and culture of Indonesia. The Onion theory states that layers of cultural identity can be stripped away to pinpoint the core and the root of the national identity of the indigenous people, however, this theory doesn’t account for changes in time. Professor Arnout Van der Meer, again, mentions that the Dutch colonialism and the religion of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism all created layers of that mixed through the Indonesian national identity.

The view of having new layers of culture to make it your own culture is indeed a plausible theory. However, the theory must consider changes in tim., There will always be a root for every national identity, and every nation should have the right to protect their core national identity. However, through time and history, new layers of culture and religion will be added on and with changes in time these new layers of culture and religion will be added to the root of the national identity and other cultures that don’t fit with the core national identity will be discarded.