Promoting Global IR under the Dominance of Mainstream Theories and the Liberalization of Universities: Reflections from Indonesia.

AuthorWicaksana, I. Gede Wahyu

International Relations (IR) was introduced as an academic discipline at some Indonesian universities in the mid-1960s. At the outset, IR as a discipline served the purpose of training diplomats for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its diplomatic missions overseas. (1) Sixty years on, IR has become one of the most popular fields of study in the social sciences in Indonesia, attracting many students at the tertiary level. According to the Indonesian Association of IR (Asosiasi Ilmu Hubungan Internasional Indonesia, or AIHI), 75 universities currently offer IR courses, primarily at the undergraduate level. In addition, nine universities offer master's and doctoral programmes in IR. (2) Accompanying this progress are academic efforts to create innovative elective courses, learning methods and research methodologies inspired by the challenges brought about by globalization. Outside of university campuses, Indonesian IR thinkers and practitioners contribute significantly to advancing intellectual debates and policy discourses in various aspects concerning Indonesia's participation in world affairs.

This article presents a reflexive study of Indonesia's current IR research and teaching trends. It was conducted through an online survey between August and December 2020. The questionnaire was sent to 188 eligible scholars and was completed by 62, for a response rate of 33 per cent. Forty-one respondents were male and 21 were female, and they represented 15 institutions located in ten major cities. Thirteen university-based IR departments were selected based on their representativeness in terms of the geographical location of the city; their position in the 2020 national university rankings; and their popularity as demonstrated by the number of new student applications for their undergraduate and postgraduate IR programmes. The remaining two institutions were leading research centres: the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). These think tanks were included as some of their researchers have made significant contributions to the development of IR scholarship in Indonesia. Most of the think tankers also teach at reputable universities, mainly in Jakarta. The authors acknowledge that the reach of our survey was limited due to the lack of information and access to Indonesian IR academics in the smaller and newer universities, as such institutions do not maintain a website with the contact details (including email addresses) of their staff members. Hence, the authors mostly reached out to Indonesian IR researchers who have online staff profiles and relied on our personal connections to approach them.

The survey was combined with the authors' personal experiences in research and teaching, as well as information gathered from secondary sources (mainly books and journal articles published by Indonesian IR academics). The authors also looked at the factors which have influenced the development of IR in Indonesia. Specifically, we paid attention to the challenges and prospects regarding the promotion of Global IR in Indonesia. According to Amitav Acharya and Barry Buzan, the principal goal of carrying out the inquiry into ideas and practices of IR in non-Western societies is to foster greater inclusiveness within contemporary IR. (3) In this respect, Indonesia deserves attention because the nation possesses a rich seam of unexplored cultural, social and philosophical thought that originated from the wide-ranging traditions of indigenous ethnic groups with unique historiographies of interaction with foreigners.

Constructivism and realism are the two IR general theories most referred to by Indonesian IR scholars. In terms of methodology, positivism is the leading principle for researchers, while research by Indonesian academics is predominately empirically-based and policy-oriented as opposed to theory-driven. In terms of teaching, the liberalization of universities, which refers to the changes in teaching content to serve the job market, (4) has affected IR curriculums and learning processes. However, the authors discovered a growing interest in non-Western discourses in the Indonesian IR community. Hence, we see the potential in developing Global IR from our work on Indonesia's foreign policy, strategic culture and familial statehood.

The remainder of this article is divided into three sections. The first discusses the main theories, research topics and influential academics shaping Indonesian IR scholarship. The second assesses the programmes and problems of teaching IR. The third is the authors' reflections on the challenges and potential to advance Global IR in Indonesia.

IR in Indonesia: Main Theories, Research Topics and Influential Academics

Our survey indicates that foreign policy analysis is the most popular subfield of IR in Indonesia, with 46.8 per cent of the respondents conducting research on various aspects of foreign policy. In terms of geographical coverage, 75.8 per cent cited Southeast and East Asian states as their primary area of research. The authors are part of this academic trend. We have also observed important developments in Indonesia's external relations. Local academics' interest in foreign policy corresponds to Indonesia's rising regional and global profile, especially under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004-14), who strengthened the country's participation in regional multilateral organizations. Within this growing body of literature, there are many noteworthy contributions. For example, Evan Laksmana explains how Indonesia should expand its diplomatic roles. (5) His argument goes beyond the orthodoxy that simply associates Indonesia's international activism with its large population and territory. Based on an ideational approach, Moch Faisal Karim applies role theory, (6) while Mohamad Rosyidin uses the concept of status to understand Indonesia's emerging middle power diplomacy. (7)

The focus of Indonesia's foreign policy in East Asia has much to do with the rise of China and its impact on the existing regional order. Indonesia's relationship with China has become the focus of many studies. As noted by Evi Fitriani, how Indonesians perceive China's regional assertiveness, and how the Indonesian government should deal with the consequences of Beijing's growing economic and military power, are prominent issues of debate among Indonesian scholars. (8) President Joko Widodo's (Jokowi) move to strengthen relations with China is problematized against the "independent and active" (bebas aktif) principle which has directed Indonesia's foreign policy since independence. The most controversial issue related to China's role in Indonesia is the alignment of Jokowi's Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) with Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In Indonesia, academics, journalists and diplomats have written extensively on the pros and cons of linking the GMF with the BRI. Most of the analyses are empirically-based and related to policy-specific issues, and lack a theoretical framework. For instance, there has been no academic inquiry into how Indonesia's maritime outlook and foreign policy can contribute to the theorization or conceptualization of small or middle power states' agency. In fact, this is reflected in the survey results with only 24.6 per cent of the respondents describing their work as theory-oriented. In comparison, 37.7 per cent of the respondents indicated that their research was empirically-based, while the remaining 36.1 per cent undertook policy-oriented research.

Concerning research philosophy, our questionnaire revealed that 35.5 per cent of respondents were positivist/rationalist, and 24.2 per cent were post-positivist/reflexivist. Looking further at general IR theories, constructivism was favoured by 25.8 per cent of the scholars, realism by 19.4 per cent and liberalism by 16.1 per cent. Other theoretical perspectives, such as the English School, feminism, postcolonialism and postmodernism, were less popular--altogether accounting for less than 10 per cent of the responses. More specifically, 25 per cent of Indonesian researchers who subscribed to realism identified themselves as neoclassical realists. Of the constructivists, 62.5 per cent preferred norm-based modern constructivism. Sixty per cent of the liberals identified themselves as neoliberal institutionalists. If linked to knowledge development, this data is consistent with the trends in current Indonesian IR scholarship. The importance of ideas, norm-setting objectives, institution-building and cooperation has become a core feature of intellectual exchange. Even though realism is the philosophical foundation of Indonesia's foreign policy, (9) which has been socialized for decades through IR curricula during the Cold War, the younger generation of lecturers and researchers are keen to explore non-realist approaches, most notably constructivism. The authors themselves have noticed a constructivist turn in the Indonesian IR community since the 2010s, alongside a growing interest in ideas or other non-material components as a key source of explanation for Indonesia's foreign policymaking and conduct.

The authors recognize that neoclassical realism is a useful framework of analysis for international studies. (10) There is an understanding that the decision-making process, and the urgent need to design a grand strategy for Indonesia's foreign policy, are the by-product of the country's complex internal and external environments. Based on positivist and qualitative research guidelines, both internal and external environments have to be observed and measured systematically. In turn, Indonesian observers utilize this data to develop reliable policy assessments and recommendations. In many respects, the outcome of this approach implies an admiration for rationality in the form of prudence and visibility of action while abiding by neoclassical realist...

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