July 29, 2014
In Search of the Real Indonesia
Pankaj Mishra, New Yorker
The Associated Press
Indonesia's diversity is formidable: some thirteen and a half thousand islands, two hundred and fifty million people, around three hundred and sixty ethnic groups, and more than seven hundred languages. In this bewildering mosaic, it is hard to find any shared moral outlooks, political dispositions, customs, or artistic traditions that do not reveal further internal complexity and division. Java alone—the most populous of the islands, with nearly sixty per cent of the country’s population—offers a vast spectacle of overlapping cultural identities, and contains the sediments of many world civilizations (Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, European). The Chinese who settled in the port towns of the archipelago in the fifteenth century are a reminder of the great maritime...