A letter from the editor

It’s the time of the year when New Mandala joins the rest of Australia to disappear for the Christmas and New Year holiday. We’ll be taking a break from publishing from today, and will be back online in early January.

Who’s going to miss 2017? Certainly, nobody who cares about human rights, ethnic and religious tolerance, or democratic institutions, given what a horror show this year has been for all of those things throughout the region.

New Mandala’s top posts of 2017

Revisit our 20 most-read posts published throughout the year.

But bad years for Southeast Asia have a grim tendency to be good ones for this blog. Notwithstanding the subject matter that authors have had to address, the quality of the contributions we’ve hosted this year has been outstanding. (See our list of 2017’s most popular posts at the left, and a few of my personal favourites—yes, I have immodestly included one co-authored by myself and a colleague—at the bottom of this post.)

I’d like to extend my thanks to all of the contributors who volunteered their time to write something up for New Mandala, especially from the time-scarce academics and students among you. Your contributions have been a testament to the benefits of scholars weighing in on debates about political and social developments as they happen, in a format accessible to broad, non-academic audiences.

I should note that New Mandala has been in good company here: the University of Melbourne’s Indonesia at Melbourne and Oxford University’s Myanmar-focused Tea Circle blogs have also done good work throughout the year in bringing important scholarly perspectives on Southeast Asian topics to the table. Let’s hope that what all these platforms are part of is a comeback of the blogging medium, in the face of some stiff competition in recent years from the Twitter thread and Facebook status.

A big thanks, of course, is also due to our readers, and your engagement with the content of New Mandala posts on social media and elsewhere. You might think some takes were brilliant, some were rubbish, but if you happened to be introduced you to a new topic you didn’t know much about beforehand, or were made to see a well-known topic from a new perspective, then this blog has done its job.

Looking forward to 2018

We’re heading into a big year for Southeast Asian elections. Before long Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will pull the trigger on a general election, and New Mandala will once again be a platform for must-read analysis of Malaysian politics, from the fine grained to the big picture.

Our old friend Thailand may well see an election of some description in 2018, if the latest pronouncements from Government House are to be believed. Indonesia will also hold a wave of major regional polls that will set the scene for 2019’s national legislative and presidential elections. Indeed, the presidential election campaign begins, for all intents and purposes, in late 2018 with the registration for candidate deadlines set for October. In Cambodia, July’s general election might be the final nail in the coffin for the pretence of democracy maintained by Hun Sen over the past two decades. In all of these elections, New Mandala will be there for critical, up-to-the minute commentary and analysis.

From next year we’ll also be making a few changes to our modus operandi on Twitter. We’ll be rebooting the @IndoNewMandala account, which you can follow for news and updates on new Indonesia posts, as well as news updates and recommended reads. You can keep up on the latest from Malaysia’s election campaign through out dedicated GE14 stream at @GE14NewMandala. Our Associate Editor Mish Khan will be tweeting from Yangon at @MMatNewMandala, our new dedicated Myanmar feed.

Lastly, I’d just like to say that I’m always keen to hear more from readers about how we can make this site as useful a resource as it can be both for readers and contributors alike. Send me an email any time at [email protected] to share your thoughts.

To everybody celebrating Christmas: Merry Christmas. And to all, a happy new year and best wishes for 2018.

Editor’s favourites of 2017

Holy places and unholy politics

Ahok's support of an Islamic pilgrimage site amid Jakarta's container port illustrates the intricacies and paradoxes of Indonesia’s politics of religion.

A better political economy of the Rohingya crisis

Crude speculation about ‘land grabs’ obscures the complex historical roots of today’s Rohingya persecution.

Class dismissed? Economic fairness and identity politics in Indonesia

Exit polls from Jakarta election are a good starting point for thinking about the nexus between identity politics and inequality.