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Asian Studies / History / Politics / History of Science

 

The Floracrats
State-Sponsored Science and the Failure of the Enlightenment in Indonesia
Andrew Goss


New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies



"Wielding sharp and subtle analytic skills, Andrew Goss meticulously tracks how, when, and why colonial biologists embraced the gospel of enlightenment, progress, and science."
—Ann Laura Stoler, author of Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule

Situated along the line that divides the rich ecologies of Asia and Australia, the Indonesian archipelago is a hotbed for scientific exploration, and scientists from around the world have made key discoveries there. But why do the names of Indonesia’s own scientists rarely appear in the annals of scientific history? In The Floracrats, Andrew Goss examines the professional lives of Indonesian naturalists and biologists, to show what happens to science when a powerful state becomes its greatest, and indeed only, patron.

With only one purse to pay for research, Indonesia’s scientists followed a state agenda focused mainly on exploiting the country’s most valuable natural resources—above all its major export crops: quinine, sugar, coffee, tea, rubber, and indigo. The result was a class of botanic bureaucrats that Goss dubs the “floracrats.” Drawing on archives and oral histories, he shows how these scientists strove for the Enlightenment ideal of objective, universal, and useful knowledge, even as they betrayed that ideal by failing to share scientific knowledge with the general public. With each chapter, Goss details the phases of power and the personalities in Indonesia that have struggled with this dilemma, from the early colonial era, through independence, to the modern Indonesian state. Goss shows just how limiting dependence on an all-powerful state can be for a scientific community, no matter how idealistic its individual scientists may be.

“For anyone interested in Indonesia and the fortunes of science under colonial and then authoritarian political regimes, this book offers a detailed case study well worth reading.” —CHOICE October 2011

Andrew Goss is assistant professor of history at the University of New Orleans.

New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies
Alfred W. McCoy, R. Anderson Sutton, Thongchai Winichakul, and Kenneth M. George, Series Editors


To schedule an interview with the author or to request a review copy of the book, contact our publicity manager, phone: (608) 263-0734, email: publicity@uwpress.wisc.edu.

An analysis of Indonesia's scientific history.

February 2011

LC: 2010012967 SB
264 pp.   6 x 9   14 b/w illus.

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New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies
Alfred W. McCoy, R. Anderson Sutton, and Thongchai Winichakul, Series Editors


“A smart, elegant study of science in the East Indies, both in a time when Indonesia was Dutch, and when it finally reverted back to its own subject-citizens. The book is lively, clever, and well written.”—Eric Tagliacozzo, author of Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and States along a Southeast Asian Frontier, 1865-1915

   

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