The promises of discourse and development for Indonesia's future capital city

Authors: Tim Bunnell*, National University of Singapore, Jessica Clendenning, National University of Singapore
Topics: Asia, Urban Geography
Keywords: Asia, city, future, Indonesia
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 4:50 AM / 6:05 AM
Room: Virtual 16
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In August 2019, President Jokowi announced that the government planned to build a new capital city in the province of East Kalimantan, a place which is located more than 1,300 kilometres away from Jakarta. The chosen site, President Jokowi explained, fit desired ‘new capital’ criteria: it was free from (Jakarta’s) problems of traffic, pollution, water scarcity and risks from floods, volcanoes and earthquakes. It is also a place where President Jokowi can imagine a ‘forest city’ and a ‘smart metropolis’, among other internationally circulating ideals and labels. Visions for a new capital city have a long history in independent Indonesia and have long referenced cities elsewhere as models and sources of aspirational urban futures. Through examining the discourse which surrounds the Indonesia’s yet to-be-named capital city as both a site and sight, we find that these physical (site) and future (sight) constructions represent much more than a place and symbol for modern-day identity. Instead, we find that President Jokowi not only imagines a ‘capital city of the future’ for modern Indonesia and in reference to other sites and cities, but sees the building of a new capital city as a way to bring equality and development – via infrastructure and investments – to islands which have long been ‘outer’ to Indonesia’s economic prosperity. Through an analysis of government plans and actions, we trace how people and places ‘out there’ act as resources for supporting what is ‘yet to come’ to Indonesia.

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