Indonesia, crossroads and borders

Café géographique

Monday 17 january 2022
Le Péri
doors openning 18h30

Between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, between Eurasia and Oceania, Indonesia is a vast archipelago whose state construction has been nourished by numerous contributions from Indianization, the influence of Islam, the diasporas that have settled there, as well as the Dutch colonization that has shaped its current contours. To this situation of prolific cultural crossroads is added a very dynamic geological context, also born from a tectonic meeting at the origin of the volcanism of the archipelago and its insular fragmentation. The many dangers that threaten Indonesia, particularly earthquakes and volcanism, have not prevented its settlement and have even become essential elements of the religious and cultural synthesis that remains one of the country’s most remarkable characteristics today. The relationship that Indonesian societies, particularly Javanese, have established with the volcanoes they inhabit is at the heart of environmental, political and landscape systems that are still at work today. The ancient balances between nature and society at the heart of the Indianized kingdoms were not erased by Islam and are still relevant keys to reading Indonesian societies today.

These physical and cultural heritages make it possible to understand Indonesia’s role as a crossroads on all scales, but this should not obscure the fact that the country’s vast size and its still unevenly overcome discontinuity perpetuate a long-standing concentric organization.

This two-voice presentation proposes a geohistorical reflection on the tension that Indonesia experiences between crossroads and borders, between unity and diversity, through a cross-approach of volcanic spaces and religious heritages, which are constitutive of landscapes and representations that are still operating.

Édouard de Bélizal (CPGE teacher, associate researcher at the Mosaics laboratory, UMR Lavue 7218) is a geographer, specializing in volcanic risks in Indonesia.
Rémy Madinier (CNRS) is a historian of contemporary Indonesia, specializing in Islam and religious issues.