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Dr Nicholas Long

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Nick-Long-Head-ShotNick 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 the experience 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 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, memories of violence, and cross-border relations.

Nick's current work 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 ‘Post-democracies’ and to explore the question of how and why people abandon once-cherished democratic ideals from a comparative perspective.

Nick also has a long-standing interest in the anthropology of achievement, using ethnographic methods to help understand how and why ‘achieving’ affects people in such different ways, and investigating the ways in which anthropological perspectives might speak to, but also be enriched by, work in the fields of social, developmental and educational psychology.

Selected publications

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

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Fieldwork Photos

 Protest poster
Political mural by Riau Island street artists 

Beauty competition 
Winners (and losers) of a provincial beauty contest

Wedding
Wedding parade in Tanjung Pinang