Indonesia is probably the biggest nation in the world that most people can’t find on a map. One in 13 people on the planet come from Indonesia, and 110 million of them are aged under 25. What’s life like for these young people?
According to Elizabeth Pisani, whose book Indonesia Etc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation considers this question, in the capital Jakarta and the big cities of Java — the most crowded of Indonesia’s 13,500 islands – they’re addicted to Facebook and enthusiastic users of sexual networking sites such as Tinder, but millions also spend a lot of time in Koran reading classes or protesting against the polluting influence of Lady Gaga. In more distant islands, kids go to schools where most teachers play truant, and people have to drop out of college to pay for ritual sacrifices at their granny’s funeral.
Pisani first lived in Indonesia when she was a “young person”, and she’s conducted a stormy love affair with the country ever since. Her book is based on 25 years of intimacy, with all its infatuation and frustration, and was named a best book of 2014 by The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The Times, the Financial Times and others.
In this talk, she’ll pass on some of the contradictions that she found young people wrestling with on her recent 23,000 kilometres journey around Indonesia by boat, bus and motorbike.