From ‘Greater India’ to New Order Indonesia: Scholars, travellers, and gurus, and the 1970s hippie trail to Javanese spirituality

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Date(s) - 20/10/2016
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Room E561, 5th Floor, East Wing, Menzies Building (Building 11)


In the 1970s, a generation of young men and women, mostly from Europe, the US, and Australia, left for long-term journeys to an imagined Greater India that also crossed (Islamic) Indonesia, to (Hindu) Bali. This happy hippie trail crossed an Indonesia, which had only recently experienced orchestrated, inter-civilian mass killings, not the least in Bali, following the pre-empted coup in 1965. President Soeharto’s New Order government combined subsequent political repression, however, with economic development in which cultural tourism was one of the trump cards. In this paper I explore trajectories of knowledge along this so-called hippie trail through Indonesia, focusing on inter-actions between travellers and local gurus and spiritual associations. I situate the hippie trail in long term scholarly and spiritual knowledge networks, active in (post-)colonial Indonesia in the period 1880s-1990s, and in local, inter-Asian and global contexts. I aim to provide insight in the dynamics of power, a so-called hippies’ freedom cult, and knowledge production concerning local culture(s) and religion, in the context of the highly repressive New Order regime of Indonesia, from the late 1960s, well into the 1990s. The paper is a case study, and work-in-progress, from my new research project on ‘Indonesia and Greater India. Scholarly and religious knowledge networks and moral geographies, 1880s-1990s’.

About the speaker

Marieke Bloembergen is senior researcher at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies in Leiden (KITLV). She has published a monograph on the Netherlands Indies at world exhibitions (2006), and on the history of policing in the Dutch East Indies (2009). She has recently finished a large joined research project (with Martijn Eickhoff, NIOD) on the local, inter-Asian and global dynamics of archaeology and heritage politics in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia, resulting in several articles and a book manuscript in its final stage. Her research interests include the political dynamics of knowledge production, and biographies, histories and memories of (post-)colonial policing in (post-)colonial Indonesia, in a widening, inter-Asian and global context.