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

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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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Author Biographies

Jeff Lewis, RMIT University

Jeff Lewis is a professorial research fellow in the Global Cities Institute, School of Applied Communication, RMIT University. His recent books include Cultural Studies, second edition (2008) and Language Wars: The Role of Media and Culture in Global Terror and Political Violence (2005). His most recent book, Bali’s Silent Crisis: Desire, Tragedy and Transition, written with Belinda Lewis, was published in 2009.

Belinda Lewis, Monash University

 Belinda Lewis is a specialist in international and community health in the Faculty of Medicine at Monash University. She has published numerous papers on crisis and recovery in Indonesia and Sri Lanka and associated public health issues. Her most recent book, Bali’s Silent Crisis: Desire, Tragedy and Transition, written with Jeff Lewis, was published in 2009.