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Cosmopolitan Indonesia

Cosmopolitanism is a magnificent ideal for a world torn by divisions and it exists in Indonesia in some surprising places. But how deep does and can it go?

‘Outside Indonesia’ – that could be the title of this edition. Cosmopolitanism is the idea that human beings belong to a single community and share a common morality. Its attractiveness grows when chauvinistic nationalism or traditional religion is at its most damaging. But an ideal is one thing, reality another. As for ‘actually existing socialism’, we might ask: what does ‘actually existing cosmopolitanism’ look like? This edition of Inside Indonesia aims to find out.

Readers of Inside Indonesia might be forgiven for thinking there are no cosmopolitans in Indonesia. Not just because we often write about the most un-cosmopolitan Indonesians – such as Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) thugs attacking non-Sunni Muslims or human rights activists. But also because we have often portrayed ‘real’ Indonesians as being ‘inside’ Indonesia, living out their unique culture. Rarely have we highlighted Indonesians who travel and learn – transnational activists; wealthy Indonesian entrepreneurs living in Los Angeles; cruise ship crewmembers; or even villagers who watch foreign TV.

Besides celebrating surprisingly cosmopolitan Indonesians, this edition also asks some uncomfortable questions. Isn’t cosmopolitanism just another word for globalisation and westernisation? Aren’t cosmopolitans simply members of a globalised upper-class, out of touch with their less fortunate fellows tied to a workshop and a piece of dirt? What does ‘solidarity’ mean to the cosmopolitan? Is it even possible for an artist to be both Indonesian and cosmopolitan?

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van Klinken, G. 2014, Cosmopolitan Indonesia, Inside Indonesia, viewed 9 January 2014, http://www.insideindonesia.org/current-edition/cosmopolitan-indonesia