While I’m only in Jakarta just for a month on a summer research grant from the Indian Ocean Imaginaries research cluster, Indonesia is just as I remembered it: culturally diverse, bustling with action (and pollution), criss-crossed with seemingly impossible to navigate streets, and full of welcoming people who are generous with their time and resources. This month—which I’m in the middle of right now—is a way for me to solidify the connections I already have in various government agencies and institutes of learning and to make new ones as I narrow and solidify my future research plans, now coming into focus as I start my third year as a PhD student in ethnomusicology at Davis.

I’m interested in the relationship between Indonesian music education (in its curricular, extracurricular, and community forms) and national identity. As a relatively new country proud of its many contributing subcultures, Indonesia has a long history of parsing out its collective cultural identity and the relationship between the region and the nation. My goal is to understand how the government, particularly the Ministry of Education and Culture, articulates that identity in the arts education portions of the 2013 national curriculum, newly implemented nationwide. To this end, I’ve been spending my time here at the Ministry (shortened to Kemendikbud, for Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan) interviewing directors of various subdirectorates and finding out where I should go next. In the coming weeks, I’ll have meetings and interviews with the members of Kemdikbud who put together the new curriculum and are overseeing its implementation. Additionally, I’ll travel back to Yogyakarta, a small city in Central Java famous for artistic innovation and my home site during my 2013-2014 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, to visit several high schools with music programs, check out a teacher training center in nearby Kaliurang, and meet with the head of the ethnomusicology department at ISI, the Yogyakarta branch of the Indonesian Arts Institute (Institut Seni Indonesia).

Many thanks to the Indian Ocean Imaginaries research group for funding my time here, and I’m looking forward to sharing my findings with the group back at UC Davis.

(Gillian Irwin is a PhD student in ethnomusicology at UCDavis with research interests in Indonesia, particularly revival and reform of traditional music in Sumatra; memory studies; early music; linguistics)