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Indonesianising Indonesia: Conservative indigenism in an age of globalisation

Positing that the key to understanding most ‘Asian values’ rhetoric lies at the level of domestic politics, this paper examines the manufacture and political uses of ‘indigenist’ discourses in Indonesia. It contrasts populist and conservative forms of indigenism and explores how President Soeharto deployed the latter against his leftist, Muslim and liberal critics. The paper suggests that the rise of an educated and globally connected middle class has eroded the government’s ability to rely on old ideological formulas and led it to search for new legitimatory mechanisms. Domestic turmoil arising from the economic crisis sweeping Asia may, however, see a return to nationalism and with it a boost in the stocks of indigenism and ‘Asian values’.

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