Transactions in Desire: Media Imaginings of Narcotics and Terrorism in Indonesia

Jeff Lewis
Belinda Lewis


The relationship between Australia (an outpost of Anglo-western culture) and Indonesia (the world's most populous Muslim nation) has always been precarious. Much of the Australian media and political 'mediasphere' have contributed to the destabilisation of this relationship, most particularly as many media professionals reduce complex transcultural and transnational engagement to simple and essentialised cultural dichotomies. This limited vision is evident in the popular media's treatment of two significant politico-cultural issues: regional terrorism and the trade in illicit narcotics. Within a context of the global war on terror and Islamic attacks in Bali, much of the Australian popular media and public have been particularly agitated by the conviction and death sentencing of a group of Australians (the Bali Nine) who had attempted to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia. This article examines the interrelationship between drug trafficking and regional security in South East Asia, most specifically as the issues have been conflated through transnational politics and the Australian media. The article concludes that these issues have a common trajectory within the momentum of globalisation and the cultural imaginaries created through the modern mediasphere.

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