Australia and Indonesia

In Australia, the relationship with Indonesia has loomed large since the days of  Indonesian National Revolution. Academic and popular accounts of the state of the relationship have regularly appeared. The most recent of these is a big book of almost 500 pages and 25 chapters.

Strangers Next Door? Indonesia and Australia in the Asian Century edited by Tim Lindsey and Dave McRae was published in 2018 by Hart Publishing. It is reviewed for JCA by Richard Robison.

Almost a Handbook, Robison says that being a big book means it covers a “vast range of topics. We can find assessments of political, economic and military relations between Australia and Indonesia and insights into specific areas of collaboration in policing, military, youth, women and justice.” This also means that  the book “can include authors from a wide range of backgrounds, spreading beyond the usual academic suspects to business people, former diplomats, lawyers, journalists and individuals from non-governmental organisations and the arts.”

As with many collections, Robison notes that the strengths of size and scope “also have costs.” He notes an “unevenness between the chapters,” that range from the descriptive to the analytical. There are several different approaches within the collection. In the end, Robison concludes:

… the different interpretations tend to overwhelm the basic proposition of the book.
It might have been better to reflect this in a title that highlights the contested nature of the issue, maybe: Strangers Next Door: How Much Does it Matter?

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