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Indonesian cultural anthropologist Paschalis Maria Laksono is enhancing Lafayette’s Asian studies program as Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence this school year.

Laksono is teaching an Anthropology of Politics course during the fall semester, serving as a guest lecturer on campus, speaking at other Lehigh Valley colleges, and giving community lectures. He is planning a course on the anthropology of religion for the spring. He also will help several departments develop curricula on Southeast Asia.

“Professor Laksono is a great addition to our Asian studies program this year,” says Robin Rinehart, associate professor of religious studies and chair of Asian studies. “His visit is a fantastic opportunity for the Lafayette community to learn more about Indonesia and Southeast Asia.”

Laksono credits his interest in anthropology to the multicultural dimension of his homeland, which was colonized in the past and is composed of hundreds of ethnic groups. He witnessed discrimination in his society and was drawn to the field because an anthropologist studies cultures as a means of understanding different ways of life and thinking.

“In the past, it [anthropology] was used to colonize the Other, but now it empowers the oppressed, marginalized people by acknowledging their lives,” he says. “It entails the discussion of social justice.”

The American Indonesian Exchange Foundation invited Laksono to apply to the Fulbright program for the position that Lafayette requested. At first reluctant due to career and family commitments, he discussed the opportunity with his wife, who encouraged him to apply. He looks forward to teaching at a liberal arts college since all of his previous experiences have been with large universities. Laksono also notes that Lafayette’s goal for his residency is very similar to his work in Indonesia.

“This is exactly the institution that I want to see because nowadays, in campuses all over the world, education has been downgraded to become almost inhuman,” he explains. “A small campus like Lafayette will probably be much more human than those big campuses.

“The multicultural dimension of Lafayette is also very close to what I’m doing in Indonesia,” he continues. “I’m in the middle of preparing a scholarship for graduate students who want to study cultures other than their own. The idea is to open up their minds to become more inclusive rather than exclusive, which is very important since we are experiencing more parochial living conditions right now.”

Laksono plans to draw from his own experiences to help students develop a greater grasp of cultures unlike those with which they are familiar. He favors active participation in the classroom and wants to demonstrate how anthropology can be used to understand a wide variety of disciplines.

“I hope to help my students develop their own capability to understand the use of what is discussed in class so they are able to reflect on their own lives,” he says. “One thing [that is important to emphasize] is that societies are so different and so close to each other. I want my students to have some sense that they are a part of us, and we are a part of them.”

Laksono’s research and teaching interests include social changes/movements, policy advocacy for nongovernmental and civil society organizations, eastern Indonesian societies, human ecology, and Southeast Asian studies. He speaks Javanese, Indonesian, English, Dutch, and Sundanese.

Since 1983, he has been a lecturer in the department of anthropology at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He also lectures in the architecture department of the university’s Post Graduate School. Since 2000, he has been a lecturer at Institut Seni Indonesia, Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta, and Sanata Dharma University.

Laksono serves on the editorial boards of Cakalele: Maluku Research Journal, published by Center for Southeast Asian Studies of University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Wacana, published by INSIST Press of Yogyakarta. He belongs to Asosiasi Antropologi Indonesia (Association of Indonesian Anthropologists) and Koninkelijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkundig (Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology) of the Netherlands. He has published his work in 26 books and journals and has been involved with 24 research projects.

He earned his doctorate from Cornell University and his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from University of Indonesia. He also completed a two-year post-graduate training program at Leiden University in the Netherlands and undergraduate work at Gadjah Mada University.

Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by former Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the United States Department of State. The Fulbright Scholar Program is administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars in Washington, D.C. Since the establishment of the program, approximately 45,400 Fulbright Visiting Scholars have conducted research or taught in U.S. universities and approximately 43,600 Fulbright U.S. Scholars have engaged in similar activities abroad. The program operates in 140 countries worldwide in order to promote “mutual understanding between people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world.”

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