Geography And Population Of Indonesia Cultural Studies Essay

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The Republic of Indonesia is one of the largest archipelagos in the world that has 17,508 islands, situated between 6 degrees northern latitude and 11 degrees southern latitude and spreading from 97 degrees to 141 degrees eastern longitude and it is located between two continents - Asia and Australia/Oceania. This strategic position greatly influences the country's culture, social, politics and economy.

Stretching along 3,977 miles between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, Indonesia has a total area of 1.9 million square miles including the ocean waters.

The five large islands of Indonesia are: Sumatera covering 473.606 square km, Java with 132.107 square km, Kalimantan (the third largest island in the world) with an area of 539.460 square km, Sulawesi with 189.216 square km, and Papua with an area of 421.981 square km.

Indonesia has 33 provinces (including 2 Special Territories of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and Yogyakarta) and one Special Capital Region of Jakarta (DKI). East Timor was once part of Indonesia, but then through a referendum in 1999, East Timor became the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste.

The country shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Malaysia. Other neighbouring countries include Singapore, Philippines, Australia, and the Indian territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

With a population of around 240 million people, it is the world's fourth most populous country, and has the world's largest population of Muslims. Indonesia's national motto, "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" ("Unity in Diversity" literally, "many, yet one"), articulates the diversity that shapes the country. Despite its large population and densely populated regions, Indonesia has vast areas of wilderness that support the world's second highest level of biodiversity.


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Society and Culture


The population of Indonesia can be divided into two major groups: in the western region most of the people are from the Malay ethnicity while in the eastern region there are the Papuans originating from the Melanesian Islands. There are also multiple specific ethnic groups that come from a certain province/area and have specific language for example The people of Indonesia consist of various ethnic groups, religions and faith. The various ethnic groups are for example Batak, Karo, Minangkabau, Malay in Sumatra and so forth.

In addition, there are also minority ethnicities derived from Chinese, Indian and Arabic descendents. These people travelled as merchants through trade exchange since the 8th century BC and migrated to Indonesia.


As per the 2000 census, Islam is the major religion of 86.1% of the population, designating Indonesia as the largest Moslem country in the world. The remaining population consists of Protestant 5.7%, Roman Catholic 3%, and Hindu 1.8%, other or unspecified 3.4%.


Many Indonesians speak their ethnic language as their mother tongue (the most widely spoken of which is Javanese). However, the Indonesian language, Bahasa Indonesia (official, modified form of Malay) is the official language and it is taught at all schools and most Indonesians are proficient in using the language for communication.


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As in other democratic countries, Indonesia applies the Trias Politica that recognizes the separation of the legislative, executive and judicial bodies. The legislative authority is under the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) that consists of two bodies namely the Parliament composing of members of political parties and the Regional Representative Council (DPD) composing of representatives from each province in Indonesia. Each province is represented by 4 delegates that are elected by the people in the respective region.

The People's Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat or MPR) is the highest state institution, or the upper house; it consists of members of the DPR and DPD and has role in inaugurating and impeaching the president and in amending the constitution but does not formulate national policy; House of Representatives or Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR) (560 seats, members elected to serve five-year terms), formulates and passes legislation at the national level; House of Regional Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah or DPD), constitutionally mandated role includes providing legislative input to DPR on issues affecting regions (132 members, four from each of Indonesia's 30 provinces, two special regions, and one special capital city district)

Upon the Amendment of the 1945 Constitution, the membership of the MPR starting the period of 1999-2004, was amended to include not only the members of the parliament (DPR) but also the members of the DPD. Formerly the MPR consisted of the parliament members and group representatives. The parliament members and the DPD members are elected every five years. Since 2004, the MPR has become a bi-chamber parliament with the DPD as second chamber.

The executive institution is centralized under the president, vice president, and the cabinet of ministers. The cabinet is a presidential cabinet in which the ministers report to the president and do not represent the political parties.

The judicial institution -since the reform era and upon the amendment of the 1945 Constitution- is administered by the Supreme Court including the administration of the judges.

Indonesia adopts a democracy that is based on the 5 principles known as the Pancasila Democracy. These state fundamentals were proclaimed by President Soekarno (the first President of Indonesia) on the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Indonesia on 17 August 1945.


Pancasila is the philosophic fundamentals of the state. The word "Pancasila" is derived from two Sanskrit words, "panca" which means five, and "sila" which means principle. Pancasila consists of five principles that are interrelated and inseparable, namely:

1. The belief in one God

2. A just and civilized humanism

3. Unity of Indonesia

4. Democratic citizenship lead by wise guidance born of representative consultation

5. Social just for all the people of Indonesia


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Indonesia is the 16th largest economy of the world with a GDP of $521 billion (2009 est.) with a labourforce employed largely in the Agriculture and Services sectors.

Indonesia, in the past 2 decades has seen extensive financial turmoil, with the Asian Crisis of the 90's where it was the worst effected of the Asian Tigers to the worldwide financial turmoil of 2008. It has weathered the crises relatively smoothly, especially the slowdown in 2008, because of its heavy reliance on domestic consumption as the driver of economic growth.

Although the economy slowed significantly from the 6%-plus growth rate recorded in 2007 and 2008, expanding at 4% in the first half of 2009, Indonesia outperformed its regional neighbours and joined China and India as the only G20 members posting growth during the crisis. The government used fiscal stimulus measures and monetary policy to counter the effects of the crisis and offered cash transfers to poor families; in addition, campaign spending in advance of legislative and presidential elections in April and July helped buoy consumption. The government made economic advances under the first administration of President Yudhoyono in 2004, introducing significant reforms in the financial sector, including tax and customs reforms, the use of Treasury bills, and capital market development and supervision. Indonesia's debt-to-GDP ratio in recent years has declined steadily because of increasingly robust GDP growth and sound fiscal stewardship. Indonesia still struggles with poverty and unemployment, inadequate infrastructure, corruption, a complex regulatory environment, and unequal resource distribution among regions. Yudhoyono's re-election, in 2010 with respected economist Boediono as his vice president, suggests broad continuity of economic policy, faces the ongoing challenge of improving Indonesia's insufficient infrastructure to remove impediments to economic growth, while addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation needs, particularly with regard to conserving Indonesia's forests and peatlands.

The major trade partners of Indonesia are Japan, China, South Korea, India, USA and neighbouring countries namely Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.


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Indonesia has a rich and diverse culture which has been greatly influenced by other cultures and religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Islam. The result is a complex cultural mixture very different from the original indigenous cultures. This gets reflected in dance, food, and architecture.

While western culture has greatly influenced modern day Indonesian culture which gets reflected in TV, Movies, Politics, there are Indigenous ethnic groups Mentawai, Asmat, Dani, Dayak, Toraja and many others are still practising their ethnic rituals, customs and wearing traditional clothes.

MUSIC: In the field of music, Indonesia is rich with traditional as well as modern music that extends from the city of Sabang (the western point of Indonesia) to the city of Merauke (the eastern point of Indonesia). Although traditional music including Javanese keroncong is commonly known, modern music is more popular followed by dangdut music. Dangdut is one type of music originating from Indonesia that has also become quite popular throughout the country. This type of music is a blend of Malay and Indian music with elements from traditional music as well. The name of "Dangdut "is derived from the sounds of "dang" and "dut" (pronounced as "doot") that come from the dominating resonances of the bongo and the flute. The Dangdut singers usually sing while dancing expressively and gracefully following the beat of the music. There are several varieties of Dangdut music namely Malay Dangdut, Modern Dangdut (using modern instruments) and Coastal Dangdut (influenced by Javanese and Sundanese traditional music). In the 1970s, Dangdut was initially recognized as a type of Malay orchestral music, but in the 1980s, this type of music became more popularly known as Dangdut music.

DANCE & DRAMA: Many of the dances also reflect some Islamic values. Several of these dances originate from the island of Sumatra, such as the Saman Meusukat dance and the Seudati dance from Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam. Randai is a folk theatre tradition of the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, usually performed for traditional ceremonies and festivals. It incorporates music, singing, dance, drama and the silat martial art, with performances often based on semi-historical Minangkabau legends and love story.

Another form of local drama is Javanese Ludruk and Ketoprak, Sundanese Sandiwara, and Betawi Lenong. All of these drama incorporated humor and jest, often involving audiences in their performance.

POETRY: Another famous cultural item from Indonesia is the wayang kulit (a shadow puppet made from goat skin) that depicts mythological characters and stories. The art of old poetry in the form of quatrain and couplet sayings from various regions such as the Malay quatrain are often cited in special occasions or in cultural performances.

CRAFTS: One of Indonesia's cultural heritage that has been acknowledged as a world heritage is the batik cloth. Several Indonesian islands are famous for their batik, ikat and songket cloth. The prominent batik industry areas are in Yogyakarta, Solo, and also Pekalongan.

SPORT: Many traditional games are still preserved and popular in Indonesia, although western culture has influenced some parts of them. Among three hundred officially recognized Indonesian cultures, there are many kinds of traditional games: cockfighting in Bali, annual bull races in Madura, and stone jumping in Nias. Stone jumping involves leaping over a stone wall about up to 1.5 m high and was originally used to train warriors. Pencak Silat is another popular form of sport, which was influenced by Asian culture as a whole. Another form of national sport is sepak takraw. The rules are similar to volleyball: to keep the rattan ball in the air with the players' feet.

MARTIAL ART: Silat and Pencak Silat: The art of silat was created and firstly developed in the islands of Java and Sumatra. It is an art for survival and practiced throughout Indonesian archipelago. Centuries of tribal wars in Indonesian history had shaped silat as it was used by the ancient warriors of Indonesia. Silat was used to determine the rank and position in old Indonesian kingdoms.

Pencak silat is an art of self defence which is uniquely from Indonesia. This martial art is sometimes shown at certain performances accompanied by traditional music of the region.


Infrastructure: (Communication / Technology / Transportation)


Indonesia has fairly effective telecommunications and infrastructure, especially roads. Road transport is predominant, with a total system length of 437,759 km in 2008 although 179,015 km of that number was unpaved. Railway lines totaled 8529 kilometers in 2008.

There are 683 airports throughout Indonesia, but only 164 of them have paved runways. As an archipelago, Indonesia relies on a huge fleet of ships for transporting both passengers and goods. Important ports include Cirebon, Jakarta, Kupang, Palembang, Semarang, Surabaya, and Ujungpandang.

All transport modes play a role in the country's transport system and are generally complementary rather than competitive. The railway system has four unconnected networks in Java and Sumatra primarily dedicated to transport bulk commodities and long-distance passenger traffic. Sea transport is extremely important for economic integration and for domestic and foreign trade. It is well developed, with each of the major islands having at least one significant port city. The function of air transport is significant, particularly where land or water transport is deficient or non-existent. It is based on an extensive domestic airline network where all major cities can be reached by passenger plane.

Indonesia has 21,579 km of navigable waterways (As of 2008), of which about one half are on Kalimantan, and a quarter each on Sumatra and Papua. Waterways are highly needed because the rivers on these islands are not wide enough to hold medium-sized ships. In addition to this, roads and railways are not good options since Kalimantan and Papua are not like Java, which is a highly developed island. With the current length of waterways, Indonesia ranked fifth on the countries with longest waterways rant


Indonesia has made vast progress as far as connectivity to modern systems of communication. Indonesia has a vast list of printed media, in the forms of newspapers or magazines. Some, such as Kompas and Koran Tempo are circulated around Indonesia daily and are relatively simple to obtain. Others are island- or city-specific, and are usually not distributed to other regions.

The telecom coverage is extensive, with Indonesia being the 10th most penetrated country in the world with 30.378 million main lines in use and 140.578 million mobile cellular connections(2008)

Coverage thourghout the country as provided by existing network has been expanded by use of over 200,000 telephone kiosks many located in remote areas with mobile cellular subscribership growing rapidly.

Links throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Europe are through satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 1 Pacific Ocean)

There are 54 local TV stations (11 national TV networks)as in 2006

There are 30 million Internet users (2008)


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