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Dr Nicholas Long

NL Head shot 26_11Nick Long is a specialist in the anthropology of Indonesia and the Malay World. His work examines the relationship between the experience of self, agency, and relations with others and processes of political and cultural change.  

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 is currently engaged in several parallel research projects. 

The first 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. Some initial conclusions on this question were published in his co-edited volume The State We’re In: Reflecting on Democracy’s Troubles

The second traces the emergence and impact of new kinds of ‘psychological engineering’ across postcolonial Indonesia, where achieving a ‘Mental Revolution’ has been identified as a priority by the Jokowi presidency. Having published several pieces on Indonesian attempts to cultivate ‘achieving mindsets’ via competitions and record-breaking, Nick is now investigating the latest trend in this field: hypnomotivation, and associated forms of psychotherapy.

Finally, Nick’s work on hypnotism has spurred him to investigate more thoroughly the traditions of metaphysical thought that influence Indonesians’ engagement with, and subjective experiences of, the world, and the challenges that such influence might pose to conventional anthropological theories of authority, neoliberalism, and self-cultivation.

Nick particularly welcomes enquiries from prospective graduate students working in fields related to psychological anthropology, affect, consciousness, Islam, political change, or the ethnography of Indonesia and the Malay World.

Selected publications


2013. Being Malay in Indonesia: Hopes, Histories and Citizenship in the Riau Archipelago [ASAA SEAPS series] Singapore, Honolulu & Leiden: NUS Press, University of Hawai’i Press, and KITLV 

2016. The State We’re In: Reflecting on Democracy’s Troubles  (editor, with Joanna Cook and Henrietta L. Moore). Oxford and New York: Berghahn. 
    **Access the introduction for free here**

2013.  The Social Life of Achievement (editor, with Henrietta Moore).  Oxford and New York: Berghahn.
     **Access the introduction for free here**

2012. Sociality: New Directions (editor, with Henrietta Moore). Oxford & New York: Berghahn. 
    **Access the introduction for free here**

2012. Southeast Asian Perspectives on Power (editor, with Liana Chua, Joanna Cook, and Lee Wilson). London & New York: Routledge. 
    **Access the introduction for free here**

Articles and book chapters

2018 forthcoming. ‘Suggestions of power: searching for efficacy in Indonesia’s hypnosis boom’. Ethos 46(1).

2017 forthcoming. ‘On the Islamic authority of the Indonesian state: responsibility, suspicion, and acts of compliance’. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 23(4).

2017. ‘The edge of glory: theorising centre-periphery relations in and from Indonesia’s Riau Islands’. In Rethinking Power Relations in Indonesia: Transforming the Margins , edited by Michaela Haug, Martin Rössler, and Anna-Teresa Grumblies, 65-79. Abingdon & New York: Routledge.

2015. ‘For a verbatim ethnography’. In Anthropology, Theatre and Development: The Transformative Potential of Performance , edited by Alex Flynn and Jonas Tinius, 305-333. Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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 Ownership and Appropriation, edited by Veronica Strang and Mark Busse, 43-64. Oxford & New York: Berg. 

2010. ‘Haunting Malayness: the multicultural uncanny in a new Indonesian province'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 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


Fieldwork Photos

 Protest poster
Political mural by Riau Island street artists 

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

Wedding parade in Tanjung Pinang