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The 'Achievement Mentality' in a New Indonesian Province

Open lecture by Ph.D. Nick Long, Department of Anthropology, University of Cambridge.

Info about event


Thursday 26 April 2012,  at 13:45 - 14:45


Campus Aarhus, Room 122, Niels Juels Gade 84, bygning 2110, 8200 Århus N

Citizens of the Indonesian province of Kepri are widely agreed that it suffers from a ‘human resources crisis’. Provincial administrators have thus attempted to foster an achievement-oriented mindset within the population, drawing inspiration from Western psychologists such as David McClelland. This has resulted in a proliferation of competitive tournaments. Such events automatically generate ‘achievement’ (prestasi) because they always have a winner, and are said to foster a mindset that prepares Indonesians to be competitive on a global stage.

While contests remain popular, they are beginning to receive critical scrutiny for several reasons. The extension of the format to domains of religion and spirituality has led to concerns that religious ‘achievers’ are more concerned with prizes than piety. Meanwhile, the official valorisation of (competitive) achievement has fuelled the sense that achievement is a right, placing tremendous pressure on the administrators and adjudicators of competitions, who have to allocate achievement to one individual at the expense of others. This has prompted the Kepri government to devise inclusive opportunities for mass achievement, such as collective efforts to break national records. However, these tells future employers little about the individual’s specific abilities, and risk being seen as trivial.

Caught between competing visions of achievement, have Kepri achievers become disillusioned towards their own successes? Is their cynicism directed towards ‘success’ per se? Or has it led to new relations of blame and entitlement between themselves and regional authorities?

Arranged by Gritt B. Nielsen