History of the Forum

The International Indonesia Forum is the outgrowth of the Yale Indonesia Forum that was founded in late 2003. The Yale Indonesia Forum had and still has as mission to be “an interdisciplinary group that serves members of the Yale community with a common interest in Indonesia and Indonesian affairs” by bringing various people together.

The forum was founded in cooperation between students and faculty with Indriyo Sukmono acting as the Yale Faculty Advisor to the group. The YIF Program Archives are available on their homepage.

The Yale Indonesia Forum began as a small effort, held together by several dedicated people donating their time and energy. Over time, the YIF gradually grew and several workshops and conferences have been held at Yale University since 2006. In late 2007 the idea arose to hold such a conference in Indonesia to facilitate access between scholars based inside as well as outside Indonesia with the philosophical approach that both had a different perspective and knowledge could be gained by bringing these two groups together. The Yale Council on Southeast Asia Studies provided some sponsorship for the publication of the papers resulting from the conference and Atma Jaya Yogyakarta University was willing to shoulder the financial burden of hosting the conference for what was to be the very first in a long and productive series of in-country conferences.

The concept of the new conference series was to promote an equal partnership through mutual respect and willingness to learn based on the unique knowledge that each group of scholars, internal and external, brought to the mix. The International Indonesia Forum has been a voluntary effort of various people who have contributed their time and energy ever since and has never charged any fee to presenters of their academic work in the conference. The conference has been lucky to receive many voluntary contributions of senior researchers from major universities all over the world and this has enabled the organizers to provide opportunities to more junior scholars from Indonesia as well as abroad.

The first call for papers was launched in 2007 and the first conference was held in the summer of 2008. The cooperation of scholars from Indonesia, Europe, Asia-Pacific and the USA contributed to make the event successful. The group was an extension of the concept behind the Yale Indonesia Forum – to become a forum to foster interaction, dialogue, and an open exchange of ideas between Indonesian and non-Indonesian scholars. Many friends and Indonesianists came together and many alumni from Yale University helped to lend their scholarly stature to raise the level of the conference. Senior scholars from Indonesia also participated as volunteers and all contributed to make the event highly successful.

The first IIF conference
The first IIF conference

Having participated in the 2008 forum, Sanata Dharma University volunteered to become the next host of the 2nd Yale/International Indonesia Forum. The group reconnected and in the summer of 2009 the second Yale International Indonesia Forum was held in what was an important step in ensuring that this collaboration could grow further and become a yearly event.

The conference grew in size, quality and importance after both Diponegoro University in 2010 and Yogyakarta State University in 2011 graciously agreed to host the forum. The yearly call for papers was answered by more and more scholars both locally and internationally.

The fourth IIF Conference
The fourth IIF Conference

In 2011 a gradual autonomy became visible as the group matured and grew more independent from its parent organization, the Yale Indonesia Forum, now officially becoming the International Indonesia Forum sponsored by Yale University and Yogyakarta State University as the then host in 2011.

In late 2011, the last academic year that the founder of the International Indonesia Forum was a graduate student at Yale, his former Alma Mater in Indonesia, Gadjah Mada University volunteered to become host for the 2012 edition and the result was a gigantic inflow of talented scholars, both junior and senior, from local universities as well as international universities – almost 100 papers were presented! The tremendous efforts of Gadjah Mada University ensured that no fees were charged to presenters.

The sheer size of the event and frankly the graduation of the organizer from Yale demonstrated the need for a more permanent body to be created and the International Indonesia Forum as it exists now came into being. It remains what it always has been: a group of very diverse scholars pooling their resources on a basis of goodwill and cooperation in order to further the sharing of knowledge and understanding on a basis of mutual respect. The group tries to continue to provide opportunities for scholars to grow academically and gratefully acknowledges the support given in the past by individual scholars as well as institutions from Indonesia as well as abroad.

For 2013 Sunan Kalijaga University graciously agreed to become the host of the 6th International Indonesia Forum. All procedures implemented during the last 5 years remained in effect.

The 2014 conference, themed “Representing Indonesia”, was hosted by Sunan Gunung Djati Islamic University in Bandung from 19 to 20 August. A total of 52 speakers representing 10 countries presented. The conference again received coverage in the Indonesian media, including in Republika and Pikiran Rakyat.

The seventh IIF Conference
The seventh IIF Conference

In 2015, the 8th IIF conference was hosted by Sebelas Maret University in Surakarta between 29 and 30 July. Sixty-four speakers representing twelve countries discussed topics related to the theme “Discourses Exploring the Space between Tradition and Modernity in Indonesia”. The conference was covered by a number of media outlets, including MetroTV and Sinar Harapan.

IIF Chairman Frank Dhont with President of Sebelas Maret University Ravik Kardisi


IIF Chairman Frank Dhont with president of Sebelas Maret University Ravik Kardisi
IIF Chairman Frank Dhont with President of Sebelas Maret University Ravik Kardisi

The 9th IIF conference was held in conjunction with Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia, Jakarta, on 23 and 24 August 2016. More than fifty speakers from ten countries discussed the theme “In Search of Key Drivers of Indonesian Empowerment” from various perspectives, including business, religion, literature, history, and law. The keynote speaker for this conference was Sri Adiningsih of the Presidential Advisory Council, who delivered a paper on the efforts taken by the Indonesian government to promote empowerment.

Sri Adiningsih speaking to the 9th International Indonesia Forum Conference

The 10th International Indonesia Forum was again held in Yogyakarta as Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta University in 2017 became the host of IIF10-2017.  In 2018 the IIF came to Salatiga for the 11th IIF Conference held in Satya Wacana Christian University.

In 2019 a major change took place. The International Indonesia Forum for the first time held the IIF Conference outside of Indonesia. The 12th International Indonesia Forum was hosted by National Cheng Kung University, Tainan City, Taiwan. Once again scholars from Indonesia and abroad gathered to present their research related to the Conference Theme of the 12th IIF: Rising to the Occasion: Indonesian Creativity, Ingenuity, and Innovation in a World in Transition. Scholars from various countries attended and a total of 35 papers were presented.