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Indonesia Studies

Photos by Budi Irawanto and Eve Warburton. Used with permission.

The Indonesia Studies Programme at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute promotes in-depth understanding of Indonesia through conferences, workshops, seminars, print and e-publications, and timely commentary in the international and local media. These serve as channels to inform scholars, policy-makers, journalists, the business community, diplomats and international organizations on pertinent developments in Indonesia today.

The programme is concerned with understanding the effects of political and economic reform in Indonesia following the end of the New Order era, especially with respect to the implementation of decentralization policies throughout the archipelagic nation, and the evolving electoral landscape as well.

The programme seeks to build and maintain institutional ties and scholarly exchange with academics, analysts, and centers involved in the study of contemporary Indonesia.

As part of above, the Indonesia Studies Programme team is currently working on following research topics:

  • The 2018 Regional Elections & 2019 Presidential and Legislatives Elections. It is election season in Indonesia. In 2018, 171 districts and provinces around the country held elections for their local leaders, the largest simultaneous regional elections ever held. Indonesia will also hold its first simultaneous legislative and presidential elections in early 2019. Since the 2014 presidential elections, and the victory of President Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s electoral landscape has been marked by an unusual level of ideological division, and an upswing in populist politics and Islamist activism. Why have such divisions emerged, and will they structure upcoming presidential and legislative elections too? And what impact will the simultaneous implementation of these two different elections have upon campaigns and voter preferences? The Indonesia Studies Program has a team of researchers monitoring these developments, and providing timely analysis on campaign dynamics, patterns of coalitions building, and the broader consequences of these elections for the health and stability of Indonesia’s democracy.

  • Indonesia’s Politics and Islam. Indonesia Islam is widely known for its plurality. Despite all the talk that Indonesia is experiencing a conservative turn, however for Indonesia, the smiling face of Islam still prevails. Indonesian Islam is complex, and there is a healthy competition in the religious public sphere for competing ideas to clash. The direction to where this will head remains to be seen. To support this research agenda, ISEAS researchers have been collaborating with a group of leading international scholars and activists to understand various major aspects of contemporary Indonesia’s Islam. This project aims to get a better understanding of the underlying forces that shape and animate the construction, contestation, fragmentation, and pluralization of authority in contemporary Indonesian Muslim society.

  • Indonesia Economy. Indonesia is still a country in transition, and one that faces major development challenges. It is still a relatively young democracy, struggling to establish robust institutions that are needed to support an upper-middle income economy. Its ambitious decentralization program is still a work in progress into an effective system of governance. Millions of its citizens still live below a poverty line. Meanwhile, inequality has risen appreciably during the democratic era. There are daunting environmental challenges. Corruption remains an ever-present and serious problem. Under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, there is a high expectation that Indonesia could overcome its huge development challenges. ISEAS has been collaborating with a group of leading international scholars to examine current state of economic policies and achievements under the Jokowi administration and to better understand the potential challenges for Indonesia to achieve its development goals and the implication of those challenges for Jokowi’s electability in 2019.

Indonesia Forum 2018: Evolving Political, Economic, and Business Environment Going into 2019

ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and the University of Michigan co-organised a one-day forum – Indonesia Forum 2018: Evolving Political, Economic, and Business Environment Going into 2019 at the Orchard Hotel Singapore on Friday, 21 September 2018. The forum brought together a combination of experts on Indonesia to share their perspectives on the country’s evolving political, economic and business landscape, including its future prospects.

Conference on “Religious Authority in Indonesian Islam: Contestation, Pluralization, and New Actors”

ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute and LIPI – Indonesian Institute of Sciences invited a group of leading scholars to present on the construction, contestation, pluralization, fragmentation, and segmentation of religious authority in Indonesian Islam. The Conference was held on 3-4 July 2018 at ISEAS Seminar Room. It discussed various topics, including Conceptualizing Religious Authority in Indonesian Islam, Challenging the Authority of Mainstream Muslim Organizations, Religious Education and the Emergence of New Santri, Religious Authority of Female Preachers and Ulama, Politics and Politisation of Religious Authority, Muslim Televangelists and New Celebrity Preachers, The Role of Television and New Media in the Contestation of Religious Authority, and Religious Authority on Interfaith and Minority Issues.

Conference on the Indonesian Economy under Jokowi: A New Development Model?

Four years into his presidency, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has arguably made significant political and economic progress in Indonesia. To examine the current state of the country’s achievements, potential growth challenges and the related implications for Jokowi’s electability in 2019, the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute (ISEAS) invited a group of leading international scholars to make presentations on various major aspects of Indonesian development issues. The Conference was held in ISEAS Seminar Room on 21-22 March 2018. Read the highlights of the event here.

Conference on the Riau Islands

Building on an ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute conference in April 2017, this conference investigated a number of key challenges facing this fledgling province. Adopting a multi-disciplinary approach, it explored the political and economic developments in the Riau Islands in the following three themes, Rapid Economic Change, Decentralization, and Development Model. The conference was held on 30 November 2017 at ISEAS Seminar Room. Read the highlights of the event here.


For upcoming seminars, please see the events page of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute website.

Seminars over the past years:


Programme Coordinator

Current Researchers

Past Affiliates

Taufik Abdullah Martin Panggabean Agung Wicaksono
Sulfikar Amir Anthony Reid Ian Wilson
Raden Alpha Amirrachman Reza Y Siregar Nugroho Wisnumurti
Adiwan Aritenang Iman Sugema Bernhard Platzdasch
Chatib Basri Rizal Sukma Aris Ananta
Soedradjad Djiwandono Priyambudi Sulistiyanto Alexander Arifianto
Richard Z Leirissa Eric Tagliacozzo Evi Nurfidya Arifin
Audrey Kahin Thee Kian Wie Maxensius Tri Sambodo
George McTurnan Kahin Ekawati S Wahyuni  Bantarto Bandoro
Okamoto Masaaki Donald Weatherbee  Jacqueline Wendy Baker
Endah Heliana Yopie Hambali Ni Putu Nala Krisdiani
Najib Kailani Gwenael Njoto-Feillard Johanes Herlijanto
Andrew M. Carruthers Ulla Fiona Kathleen Azali
Pearlyn Pang    


ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute has published research and analyses on Indonesia in various formats. Scholarship and research on Indonesia regularly appear in the annual Southeast Asian Affairs, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute Journal of Contemporary Southeast Asia, Journal of Southeast Asian Economies and SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia. Selected recent outputs including the following:


ISEAS Publications has published a wide range of monographs edited volumes on Indonesia, including:

Some of these titles are available in PDF and hardcopies. For a more comprehensive list, please check our bookshop.


Trends in Southeast Asia


Mulya Amri and Faizal Rianto

State Formation in Riau Islands Province, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 15 (2018)

Leo Suryadinata

Pancasila and the Challenge of Political Islam: Past and Present, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 14 (2018)

Andrew M. Carruthers

Living on the Edge: Being Malay (And Bugis) in the Riau Islands, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 12 (2018)

Siwage Dharma Negara and Leo Suryadinata

Indonesia and China’s Belt and Road Initiatives: Perspectives, Issues and Prospects, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 11 (2018)

Max Lane

The Rise and Decline of Labour Militancy in Batam, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 8 (2018)



Ulla Fiona

Parties in the Periphery: Organizational Dilemmas in Indonesia’s Kepri Province, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 21 (2017)

Charlotte Setijadi

Harnessing the Potential of the Indonesian Diaspora, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 18 (2017)

Leo Suryadinata

The Growing “Strategic Partnership” Between Indonesia and China Faces Difficult Challenges, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 15 (2017)

Diego Fossati, Hui Yew-Foong and Siwage Dharma Negara

The Indonesia National Survey Project: Economy, Society and Politics, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 10 (2017)

Francis E. Hutchinson

Rowing Against the Tide? Batam’s Economic Fortunes in Today’s Indonesia, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 8 (2017)

Norshahril Saat

The Traditionalist Response to Wahhabi-Salafism in Batam, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 7 (2017)

Johanes Herlijanto

Old Stereotypes, New Convictions: Pribumi Perceptions of Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia Today, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 6 (2017)

Leo Suryadinata and Mustafa Izzuddin

The Natunas: Territorial Integrity in the Forefront of Indonesia – China Relations, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 5 (2017)

Ulla Fionna

Investigating the Popularity of Surabaya’s Mayor Tri Rismaharini, ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia, No. 2 (2017)


ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute Perspective

Eve Warburton West Java’s 2018 Regional Elections: Reform, Religion, and the Rise of Ridwan Kamil (3 August 2018)
Leo Suryadinata Islamism and the New Anti-Terrorism Law in Indonesia (25 July 2018)
Diego Fossati and Eve Warburton Indonesia’s Political Parties and Minorities (9 July 2018)
Eve Warburton, Deasy Simandjuntak and Charlotte Setijadi

Indonesia’s 2018 Regional Elections: Between Local and National Politics (14 June 2018)

Charlotte Setijadi Chinese Investment and Presence in the Riau Islands (10 May 2018)
Deasy Simandjuntak

A Special Law for Archipelagic Provinces: Is it Necessary for Kepri? (23 February 2018)

Max Lane The Further Erosion of an Indonesian Political Taboo (1 February 2018)
Leo Suryadinata Golkar’s Leadership and the Indonesian President (26 January 2018)
Max Lane The Politics of Wages and Indonesia’s Trade Unions (18 January 2018)
Siwage Dharma Negara and Leo Suryadinata Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Rail Project: Little Progress, Many Challenges (4 January 2018)
Johanes Herlijanto The 1965 Tragedy, China, and the Ethnic Chinese: Interview with Lieutenant General (Retired) Agus Widjojo (Part II) (22 December 2017)
Johanes Herlijanto The Current State of Military Reform in Indonesia: Interview with Lieutenant General (Retired) Agus Widjojo (Part 1) (15 December 2017)
Johanes Herlijanto Public Perceptions of China in Indonesia: The Indonesia National Survey (4 December 2017)
Ulla Fionna ISEAS Survey: Passive Indonesian Voters Place Candidate before Party (30 October 2017)
Max Lane A New Ideological Contestation Emerging in Indonesia? (19 October 2017)
Charlotte Setijadi Chinese Indonesians in the Eyes of the Pribumi Public (27 September 2017)
Ahmad Najib Burhani The Banning of Hizbut Tahrir and the Consolidation of Democracy in Indonesia (19 September 2017)
Kathleen Azali Indonesia’s Divided Digital Economy (14 September 2017)
Diego Fossati Support for Decentralization and Political Islam Go Together in Indonesia (12 September 2017)
Siwage Dharma Negara Promoting Growth with Equity: Indonesia’s 2018 Budget (8 September 2017)
Leo Suryadinata What Does Indonesia’s Renaming of Part of the South China Sea Signify? (18 August 2017)
Kathleen Azali Fake News and Increased Persecution in Indonesia (7 August 2017)
Andrew M. Carruthers Clandestine Movement in the Indonesia-Malaysia Migration Corridor: Roots, Routes, and Realities (31 July 2017)
Johanes Herlijanto The Role of Moderate Muslims in the 2017 Jakarta Election (13 July 2017)
Leo Suryadinata General Gatot and the Re-emergence of Pribumi-ism in Indonesia (7 July 2017)
Hew Wai Weng Diversity not Uniformity: Chinese Muslim Preachers and Politicians in Indonesia (30 June 2017)
Deasy Simandjuntak Developing Poor Little Rich Natuna’s Economy (27 June 2017)
Ulla Fionna Constructing Images: Campaign Consultancy in the Batu (East Java) Local Election (15 June 2017)
Ahmad Najib Burhani Ethnic Minority Politics in Jakarta’s Gubernatorial Election (9 June 2017)
Charlotte Setijadi Ahok’s Downfall and the Rise of Islamist Populism in Indonesia (8 June 2017)
Leo Suryadinata & Siwage Dharma Negara US Vice-President Mike Pence’s Visit to Indonesia: A US “Return” to Southeast Asia? (19 May 2017)
Siwage Dharma Negara, Norshahril Saat and Jason Salim A Chance for France: President Hollande’s 2017 Visit to Southeast Asia (2 May 2017)
Hui Yew-Foong Decentralization and Chinese Indonesian Politics: The Case of Singkawang, West Kalimantan (27 March 2017)
Charlotte Setijadi The Jakarta Election Continues: What Next for Embattled Governor Ahok? (21 March 2017)
Siwage Dharma Negara The Impact of Saudi King’s Visit to Indonesia (10 March 2017)
Siwage Dharma Negara Can the Decline of Batam’s Shipbuilding Industry be Reversed? (16 February 2017)
Johanes Herlijanto How the Indonesian Elite Regards Relations with China (10 February 2017)
Ulla Fionna Manipulating “Diversity”: Campaign against Ahok Threatens Democracy (2 February 2017)
Siwage Dharma Negara and Sanchita Basu Das Challenges for Indonesia to achieve its Maritime Connectivity Plan and Leverage on Regional Initiatives (10 January 2017)