The Melanesian Diaspora in Indonesia; From Prehistory to the Present

Title          : The Melanesian Diaspora in Indonesia; From Prehistory to the Present

Authors   : Truman Simanjuntak. Herawati Sudoyo, Multamia RMT Lauder,

Allan Lauder, Ninuk Kleden Probonegoro, Rovicky Dwi Putrohari,

Desy Polla Usmany, Yudha P. N. Yapsenang,

Edward L. Poelinggomang,  Gregorius Neonbasu

English Translators:  Harry Wileri, Aida Fitriana, Suyono, H. Abdul Muis,

Hadian Fauzi

Publisher: Direktorat Sejarah, Direktorat Jenderal Kebudayaan,

Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan

ISBN        : 978-602-1289-38-9

Synopsis      :

The people of Indonesia represent a remarkably wide diversity of culture, language and appearance. This book traces the origins of the people living in the Indonesian archipelago. Because the earliest arrivals of people in the region took place long before written records existed, developing a picture of this distant past relies on methods from archaeology, linguistics and genetics. Its multi-disciplinary approach also includes views from geology, anthropology, history, sociology and oral traditions. The book traces the story of these people starting with the earliest arrivals of migrating people which took place from about 50,000 years ago.

The story of these peoples is extremely complex, but is told in an accessible way by the book’s authors. It covers the environmental and climatic contexts in the prehistoric period, the paths of these early people’s migrations, the time frame of their settlements, the cultures they brought with them and the contacts and interactions that they had. The book, commissioned by the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture’s Directorate of History and Cultural Values, is richly illustrated with photos, maps and diagrams. It opens a window to understanding the rich and complex story of the people who inhabit the country today.

Despite the great variety of groups, languages and cultures in Indonesia today, two main groups can be distinguished, Austronesian and Melanesian. The term Melanesian is used to describe the group of people, living primarily in East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, North Maluku, Papua, and West Papua who share a common culture. While Melanesians are also found in Papua New Guinea and the island nations of the southwest Pacific, the largest number are found in Indonesia. Meanwhile, the term Austronesian refers to the related but diverse groups of peoples who form the majority in the western and central parts of the country. As the book shows, however, there has been a long and complicated process of contact, intermarriage, and cultural and linguistic influence between Austronesian and Melanesian people and among their many different subgroups. They are so interrelated at multiple levels, in fact, that it is mistaken to see them as separate, mutually exclusive groups.

The book’s chapters are all by Indonesian authors and present a balanced and authoritative picture of Melanesia from an Indonesian perspective which is informed by recent research. The book covers Melanesia in Indonesia over a broad sweep of time from prehistory to the present. It gives a clearer picture of the past that can help to inform governance in the present that is just, equitable and geared to a better life for all. It can also contribute to constructive and productive relations with Indonesia’s Melanesian neighbors in the Pacific region.