SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

Can corruption reduce conflict? Lessons from Indonesia

Elizabeth Pisani
Dr Elizabeth Pisani

Date: 28 October 2014Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 28 October 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


"Good governance" is the buzzword of the day: everyone just takes for granted that less corruption would translate into more economic growth as well as a healthier body politic. That in turn reduces the likelihood of conflict, according to the conventional wisdom.

Elizabeth Pisani challenges those assumptions, using examples from Indonesia. In some cases, she argues, patronage and the economically inefficient distribution of public money serve as the glue that keeps an otherwise fractious country together. She traces the changing nature of corruption in Indonesia, and proposes ways in which it has promoted conflict but also helped restore peace in the country. She argues that a more nuanced and less ideological view of "corruption" is needed if countries are to fight graft without undermining peaceful co-existence.

Speaker Biography

Elizabeth Pisani is the author of Indonesia Etc: Exploring the Improbable Nation (published June 2014). She first lived in Indonesia as a correspondent for Reuters and The Economist from 1988-91, and spent a lot of time reporting on conflicts on Aceh and East Timor as well as recording a boom in overseas investment and corruption. After retraining as an epidemiology, Elizabeth returned to help Indonesia's Ministry of Health build systems to track and confront HIV. This job meant a lot of time in brothels and back alleys as well as in third-rate provincial hotels. She spent 2012 travelling through some of the most forgotten parts of the archipelago, covering 23,000 kilometres by boat, bus and motorbike. More at

Pisani holds an MA in Classical Chinese from Oxford, an MSc in Medical Demography from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a PhD in Infectious Disease Epidemiology, also from LSHTM.

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