Nick Long is a specialist in the anthropology of Indonesia and the Malay World, with a particular interest in the ways that processes of political change influence human beings’ understandings of self, agency, and relations with others.
These interests have emerged through conducting long-term fieldwork in Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago, a set of over 3200 islands in the South China Sea. Nick began working there in 2005, just after the archipelago had become a new province, and was struck by the forms of confusion, doubt, hope, uncertainty, disillusionment and humour that the creation of the province had engendered in Riau Islanders’ everyday lives. His forthcoming monograph, Being Malay in Indonesia, builds on these observations to develop a new framework for the study of political decentralisation: one which foregrounds the affective and experiential dimensions of political change. His fieldwork has also led him to develop fresh perspectives on many classic themes in the anthropology of Southeast Asia, including Malay identity, ‘spirit beliefs’, market cultures, poetry, and cross-border relations.
Nick is currently completing two new fieldwork projects in the Riau Islands. The first is funded by the British Academy, and investigates the ways in which Indonesia’s democratisation has been engaged with and enacted in everyday life, as well as the question of why large numbers of Riau Islanders who were once extremely enthusiastic about the concept of ‘democracy’ have come to reject it in recent years. He recently won funding from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research to convene a workshop on ‘Postdemocracies’ in April 2013, which will engage with the question of how and why people abandon once-cherished democratic ideals from a comparative perspective.
Nick’s second ongoing project is related to another of his long-term interests: the anthropology of achievement. He is particularly interested in understanding how and why the experience of ‘achieving’ affects people: why, for example, is it that fills some people with confidence, but leaves others with the sense of being a phony, or undeserving of success? Nick is interested in developing comparative ethnographic approaches to such questions, as well as establishing a dialogue between anthropological perspectives and those of social and developmental psychology. He is currently working with Dr Susan Bayly on an ESRC-funded comparative study of the experiences of different types of ‘achiever’ in both Indonesia and Vietnam.
Throughout his work, Nick has a keen interest in exploring the relationship between anthropology and critical theory, including Marxist theory, relational psychoanalysis, affect theory, existentialism and concepts of sociality – on which he has written a number of papers and, with Henrietta Moore, co-edited the volume Sociality: New Directions, currently in press with Berghahn Books.
2013. The Social Life of Achievement (editor, with Henrietta Moore). Oxford and New York: Berghahn.
2013. Being Malay in Indonesia. [ASAA SEAPS series] Singapore, Honolulu & Leiden: NUS Press, University of Hawai’i Press, and KITLV
2012. Sociality: New Directions (editor, with Henrietta Moore). Oxford & New York: Berghahn.
2012. Sociality: Re-setting the Agenda (editor, with Henrietta Moore). Special Section of Cambridge Anthropology 30 (1).
2012. Southeast Asian Perspectives on Power (editor, with Liana Chua, Joanna Cook, and Lee Wilson). London & New York: Routledge.
2012. ‘Utopian sociality. Online.’ Cambridge Anthropology 30 (1): 80-94.
2011. ‘Bordering on immoral: piracy, education, and the ethics of cross-border cooperation in the Indonesian-Malaysia-Singapore Growth Triangle’. Anthropological Theory 11(4): 441-464
2011. ‘On having achieved appropriation: anak berprestasi in Kepri, Indonesia’ in V. Strang and M. Busse (ed.) Ownership and Appropriation. Oxford & New York: Berg.
2010. ‘Haunting Malayness: the multicultural uncanny in a new Indonesian province'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (New Series) 16 (4): 874-891.
2009. ‘Fruits of the orchard: land, space and state in Kepulauan Riau’. SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 24 (1): 60-88
2008. 'Rhyme and reason in the Riau Archipelago' Cambridge Anthropology 27(3): 19-35
2007. 'How to win a beauty contest in Tanjung Pinang' Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs 41(1): 91-117