Indonesian Flag - Scrutinizing Nusantara


Scrutinizing Nusantara: The Fallacies of Indonesia's New Capital

Hosted by the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre

Room CBG 2.05, 2nd Floor, Centre Building


Dr. Sulfikar Amir

Dr. Sulfikar Amir

Associate Professor of Science, School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University


Prof. Hyun Bang Shin

Prof. Hyun Bang Shin

Professor of Geography and Urban Studies, LSE; SEAC Director

SEAC hosted Visiting Fellow, Dr Sulfikr Amir (Nanyang Technological University) who presented Scrutinizing Nusantara: The Fallacies of Indonesia’s New Capital. The talk was chaired by Prof. Hyun Bang Shin (Professor Geography and Urban Environment; Director LSE SEAC).

A video recording of this event can be watched here

In August 2019, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced the plan to build a new capital called Nusantara. His ambition is to relocate the capital from Jakarta to a new location by the end of his presidential term in 2024. While the idea to move Indonesia’s capital from Jakarta has been circulated for decades, it was President Joko Widodo who has begun the real endeavor to actualize this idea. This seminar critically examines Indonesia’s ambition to build Nusantara within a short time. Three fundamental rationales that constitute the core reasons and assumptions underpinning Widodo’s large-scale project are interrogated. First, it is assumed that the new capital city in East Kalimantan will bring regional equality between Java and non-Java islands in terms of economic development. While the new capital may trigger a hike of economic growth in East Kalimantan, the problem of regional inequality and uneven distribution of prosperity in Indonesia is larger than just a matter of where the capital is located. Second, the capital relocation is to escape the growing urban and environmental problems in Jakarta. The fact is that Jakarta’s environmental conditions are caused less by its status as capital than a concentrated industrial growth due to the developmental paradigm.  Third, the new capital has been ambitiously promoted to become the greenest and most sustainable city in the country. Thus, the concept of “forest city” is specifically used to bolster the capital city’s greening vision. This may lead to a totally opposite direction because greening Nusantara has confined itself within its administrative boundary, thus overlooking the broader implications of urbanization process. In conclusion, we highlight that the political motivation seems to have subdued the more technocratic calculations. Such a motivation can thus render Nusantara a high-risk urban project.    

Speaker and Chair Biographies:

Dr Sulfikar Amir is an Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (STS) in the Sociology Programme, School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He is the author of The Technological State in Indonesia: the Co-constitution of High Technology and Authoritarian Politics, and the editor of The Sociotechnical Constitution of Resilience: A New Perspective on Governing Risk and Disaster. His research interests primarily focus on examining institutional, political, and epistemological dimensions of scientific knowledge and technological systems. He has conducted research on technological nationalism, development and globalisation, nuclear politics, risk and disaster, design studies, city and infrastructure studies, and resilience. 

Prof. Hyun Bang Shin (@urbancommune) is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and directs the LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre. His research centres on the critical analysis of the political economy of speculative urbanisation, gentrification and displacement, urban spectacles, and urbanism with particular attention to Asian cities. His books include Planetary Gentrification (Polity, 2016), Neoliberal Urbanism, Contested Cities and Housing in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), Exporting Urban Korea? Reconsidering the Korean Urban Development Experience (Routledge, 2021), and The Political Economy of Mega Projects in Asia: Globalization and Urban Transformation (Routledge, forthcoming). He is Editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, and is also a trustee of the Urban Studies Foundation.

Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash