Conducting research in Indonesia

April 26, 2018

Under the supervision of Political Science Professor Jacques Bertrand and PhD candidate, Alexandre Pelletier, students from the Contemporary Asian Studies Program at Munk’s Asian Institute recently spent nine days in Bandung, Indonesia, where they conducted research and field observation of Islam, and its social and political expression in Indonesia. It was an International Course Module Program (ICM) now an annual component of CAS400: Interdisciplinary Research in Methods in Contemporary Asian Studies, taught by Dylan Clark.

Having already learned about different aspects of Indonesian society in CAS 400, the ICM allows students to gain real-world experience while conducting academic field research. Participating students met local students and school children, Islamic teachers, activists and NGO leaders, as well as people from different religious communities, examining recent and longer-term initiatives to maintain and develop religious pluralism and tolerance in Indonesia.

According to Bertrand the trip was essential in “exposing students to a very different form of Islam than what is usually presented in the media. It was even more eye-opening for them, given the fact that we mainly visited Islamic Boarding Schools (pesantren), which are often portrayed internationally as sites of radicalism.”

Though Bertrand, who conceptualized the trip specifically on the theme of Islam in Indonesia, was the main organizer, he had help from Alex Pelletier, who played a key role in tapping networks he developed recently through his year-long dissertation fieldwork in Indonesia.

Students recently shared a video on YouTube documenting their journey which can be viewed here.

Picture: Professor Jacques Bertrand