The pattern of a batik revival
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UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) program should be a good fit for Indonesia. A nation-state containing over 300 ethnic groups, living on over 3000 islands (and some groups, like the Bajou, living on the waters between them) spread over 5000 kilometres is bound to exhibit a diverse and interesting set of cultural practices. The official story of Indonesia’s ICH program indeed is a celebration of diverse practices surviving and sometimes thriving within a national framework. However the ICH program also raises a more important and interesting set of issues that have fascinated the most prominent scholars of Indonesia since World War II, from Clifford Geertz and Ben Anderson to Anna Tsing. How can we understand the processes that produce such a diverse set of practices, peoples and outcomes across Indonesia within constantly entwining and unifying political and economic systems? What does this mean for the people caught up in these processes and politics?
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