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Jacob Lowy '14, center, and Laksmi Amalia giving a presentation at Satunama.
Jacob Lowy '14, center, and Laksmi Amalia giving a presentation at Satunama.

A Summer in Indonesia

With the support of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, Jacob Lowy ‘14 has travelled to Jogjakarta, Indonesia, this summer as part of the Indonesia Research Program. Lowy is there with Colin Lubelcyzk ’14 and Alex Jacobs ’14 and Bryn Mawr College students Elizabeth Reilly, Amanda Beardall and Alia Luz. The program, which is run by George Mason University Assistant Professor of Anthropology Leslie Dwyer is, Lowy says, “an extensive introduction to Indonesian politics, history and culture.”

Lowy spent the first two weeks of the program at Sanata Dharma University, where the interns took an intensive course in Bahasa Indonesia, which is the national language.  Lowy says that learning the language was “quite valuable” since Indonesia, with nearly 240 million people, has the fourth largest population in the world.

The second part of the internship featured a month of training on field research methodologies with Dwyer. Lowy and the other interns also attended lectures on a variety of topics from Indonesian history to labor rights to LGBT issues. They also each conducted a miniature research project to demonstrate the techniques and information that they learned while working with Dwyer.

Lowy’s project, which focused on the emergence of a powerful Islamic political and societal presence, allowed him to conduct interviews with a number of people, including Dede Oetomo, an LGBT activist and political science professor; Alissa Whalid, the daughter of the first democratically elected president of Indonesia; and Father Benny Juliawan, another political science professor who works with democracy and labor politics.

His project also centers on the Front Pembela Islam (FPI), which is a radical and violent religious organization in Indonesia that has targeted Shia Muslims, Catholics and LGBT activists such as Lady Gaga. Lowy’s project, he says, focused “on the impact of radical Islam on the individual in Indonesia and whether or not that individual feels safe expressing his or her opinion in society.”

He has also interviewed members of local mosques and artists at the Jogja Art Festival about their perspectives on religious violence and democracy. “One group I have not had the opportunity to speak with,” says Lowy, “are members of hard-line Islamic organizations.”  He explains that this is primarily because they charge for their interviews and he knows any money he were to pay would “essentially be funding violence.”

For the final portion of their time in Indonesia, each of the students will spend a month interning at different places in the country while living with a host family. Lowy is working with Satunama, an organization that works to further democracy, transparent governance, and a fair and just economy in Indonesia. While working there, Lowy is assisting with a project to combat water pollution due to illegal mining on Mt. Merapi, a volcano 18 miles from Jogja.

“I am really interested in studying the role that media plays in facilitating communication between governments and their citizens,” he says. Lowy has studied a number of post-authoritarian regimes at Haverford, such as those in Spain, Mexico and Turkey, but was especially interested in the Indonesia Research Program because it allowed him to study such a democracy just 14 years after the overthrow of its dictator.  “Indonesia, especially Jogjakarta,” says Lowy, “has a budding media sector and a growing street art movement.” Indonesian artists, he says, are having a large impact on their nation, and he is enjoying the opportunity to observe it all first-hand.

—Jack Hasler ‘15

Founders Green on a warm spring day.

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