(Re)-migration: Indonesians of mixed descent and the journey 'home'

Rosalind Hewett

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Indonesia has a long history of outward migration, with the result that many children have been born outside Indonesia but consider it, through a parent, a 'homeland' in an emotive sense. This article examines the experiences of a number of different groups of people of 'mixed descent' (termed 'Indo' in Indonesian) who returned to Indonesia and found that they did not feel that they belonged, whether because they experienced a sense of disjuncture upon discovering that their memories did not match reality, or because they had never lived in Indonesia previously and only imagined it through a parent's stories. I closely examine the interconnectedness in the popular imagination of nationality with race and appearance in the Indonesian context, and argue that Indonesian national identity is strongly predicated upon anti-foreign sentiment, thereby making attempts of Indos who grew up outside Indonesia to describe themselves as Indonesian contentious. I also draw out the historical development of contemporary understandings about who can claim to be a 'real' or 'pure' Indonesian, which are based on colonial categories that in practice were different to how they have been portrayed in historical consciousness. The strong links between nationality and appearance/race and the complexities of the lives of individuals who choose to call several places home because of ancestral links complicate simplistic narratives of 'local' and 'foreign', 'exile' and 'return' to a homeland.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)360-375
    JournalSocial Identities
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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