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Students in a long tail boat in Indonesia. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Semester.

Instructor Introduction

Hey folks! Apa kabar? Sudah siap?

My name is Colin and I will be one of the instructors for this program, along with Rita and Keshet.  This will be my second time leading a program with Dragons and I can’t wait for it to start! In this post I will share a little bit about my background, and I look forward to reading your introduction yak posts and meeting in person in a few weeks.

This will be my second time leading the Indonesia gap year program with Dragons, and I have been splitting my time between Indonesia and the US since 2004. When I first landed in Yogyakarta (Jogja) in 2004, I knew very little about Indonesia and had done relatively little traveling on my own.

I attended Haverford College to study anthropology and peace and conflict studies. During my first semester, I was searching for creative outlets and got involved in a mural project with group of visiting artists. It was a fun project and since I really bonded with the artists, the professor who organized their visit helped me to apply for a fellowship from the college to spend my summer break working with the artists in their home country: Indonesia! I was awarded the fellowship and spent the summer in Jogja painting, living in a kos (boarding house) with local university students, studying the national language, trying as many new foods as possible, and falling in love with the country. I received a similar fellowship to work with Sanggar Anak Akar, an education-focused community of street kids in East Jakarta. After studying abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, taking courses in environmental studies and critical theory, I returned to Indonesia on a grant from the Freeman Foundation to learn about a student art movement in Denpasar. The students were critiquing what was at that time being called “Ajeg Bali”—a kind of Hindu-fundamentalist cultural movement that was growing in the early 2000s—and this became the topic of my senior thesis at Haverford.

After undergrad, I returned to Jogja on a Fulbright fellowship to study mural arts and the production of public space as a guest researcher with the Center for History and Political Ethics at Sanata Dharma University. After completing the project, I moved to southern California to get a PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Irvine. During grad school, I spent my summers doing preliminary research in Indonesia, and my project quickly shuffled to cultural and biosecurity issues facing the country’s growing kopi luwak industry. I now know way too much about kopi luwak, aka civet coffee, aka “cat poop” coffee, having spent years researching with kopi luwak producers across Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Sulawesi. I also learned an odd amount about civet biology, small carnivore conservation, and the history of the Indonesian coffee industry. Since filing my dissertation, “Feral Natures and Excremental Commodities: Purity, Scale, and the More-than-Human in Indonesia,” and getting my doctorate in December 2017, I had been managing a specialty coffeeshop in West LA while working on academic journal articles, getting back into reading novels, and growing my small collection of the plants of the Socotra archipelago. On a whim, I joined Dragons and am not looking back!

I spend a lot of my time playing around with coffee and thinking about the relationship between flavor and the unique environments of production. I also spend a lot of time thinking about the relationship between nature and culture. I’m a nature-lover, and there is arguably no better place to be captivated by plants and animals than in Indonesia. I’m looking forward to traveling to see some incredible nature with you all this Spring!

We’ll be checking the boards regularly, so don’t be shy about posting any questions!

Salam wangi,

Colin