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Faculty Profile

Abidin Kusno
Institute of Asian Research
University of British Columbia
1855 West Mall CK Choi Building
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2
Tel: 604-822-3805
Email: akusno@exchange.ubc.ca

Associate Professor
Canada Research Chair in Asian Urbanism and Culture (Tier II)


An architectural and urban historian with interests in sociology, anthropology, visual cultures, history, and politics, Dr. Kusno is exploring the historical and contemporary conditions of urban politics and city life in Indonesia. His research, which examines the roles of cities in shaping the political cultures of decolonization, nation building, and development, provides a cross-disciplinary approach to the study of space, power, and culture, and contributes to urban advocacy.



Appearances of Memory: Mnemonic Practices of Architecture and Urban Form in Indonesia. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.

Behind the Postcolonial: Architecture, Urban Space and Political Cultures in Indonesia. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.

Ruang Publik, Identitas dan Memori Kolektif: Jakarta Pasca-Suharto [Public Space, Identity, and Collective Memory: Jakarta in the Post-Suharto Era], Yogyakarta: Ombak Press, 2009. (In Indonesian)

Penjaga Memori: Gardu di Perkotaan Djawa,  [Guardhouse in Java: A Political History] Yogyakarta: Ombak Press, 2006. (In Indonesian)

Articles in Journals / Book Chapters:

“Peasants in Indonesia and the Politics of (Peri-)urbanization,” in Global Capitalism and the Future of Agrarian Society, edited by Arif Dirlik, Roxann Prazniak and Alexander Woodside. London: Paradigm Publishers, 2012: (in Press)

“Rethinking the Nation,” in The Sage Handbook of Architectural Theory, edited by Greig Crysler, Stephen Cairns and Hilde Heynen. London: Sage, 2012: 213-230.

“Runaway City: Jakarta Bay, the Pioneer and the Last Frontier,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 12, 4, 2011: 515-530.

“Runaway City / Leftover Spaces: Editorial Introduction,” (with Melani Budianta and Hilmar Farid), Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 12, 4, 2011: 475-483.

“A Hero in Passage: The Chinese and the Activist Youth in Riri Riza’s Gie” in Film in Contemporary Southeast Asia: Cultural Interpretation and Social Intervention edited by David Lim and Hiroyuki Yamamoto in for Routledge’s Media, Culture and Social Change in Asia Series. London: Routledge, 2011: 130-146.

“(Re-)searching Modernism: Indonesia After Decolonization” in Non-West Modernist Past: On Architecture and Modernities, edited by William Lim and Jiat Hwee Chang. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 2011: 81-90.

“Green Governmentality in an Indonesian Metropolis,” Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 32, 2011: 314-331.

“Homogeneity of Representation: Salvation or Menace?” in Homogeneity of Representation: Knowledge Constructions, edited by Modjtaba Sadria. London: I.B. Tauris, 2011: 143-156.

“Architecture, Indonesia and Making Sense of the New Order: Notes from My Student Years,” in Decentring and Diversifying Southeast Asian Studies: Perspectives from the Region, edited by Goh Beng Lan. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2011: 260-274.

“Tropics of Discourse: Notes on the Re-invention of Architectural Regionalism in Southeast Asia in the 1980s” Fabrications: The Journal of Society of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand, 19, 2, 2010: 58-81.

“Colonial Cities in Motion: Urban Symbolism and Popular Radicalism,” Susastra No. 7, Jurnal Ilmu Sastra dan Budaya, [Susastra: Journal for Literature and Culture] Himpunan Sarjana-Kesusastraan Indonesia. [Indonesian Literary Scholars Association] Penerbit: Yayasan Obor Indonesia, Jakarta 2008: 1-31.

“Back to the City: A Note on Urban Architecture in the New Indonesia,” in Arts, Popular Culture and Social Change in the New Indonesia, edited by Michael Leaf, Seminar Proceedings of Conference held at the Centre for Southeast Asian Research, November 24, 2006, sponsored by Consulate General of Indonesia, Vancouver and the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia, 2008: 59-93.

“Di Bawah Bayangan Bung Karno: Arsitektur Modernis dan Sejarah Kita” (Under the Shadow of Bung Karno: Modernist Architecture and Our Histories), in Tegang-Bentang: Ketegangan dan Perdebatan dalam Sejarah Arsitektur Moderen Indonesia, edited by Pusat Dokumentasi Arsitektur. Jakarta: Pusat Dokumentasi Arsitektur Indonesia, Erasmus Huis and KITLV, 2007: 60—74. (In Indonesian)

“Space, Power and Identity: Patches of the Postcolonial Past, Present and future Jakarta,”Journal of Comparative Cultural Studies in Architecture, 1, 2007: 37-42.

“The Cosmology, the Disciplinary and the Informality: Power and Space in Colonial Indonesia” Trialog: Journal for Planning and Building in the Third World, 93, 2, 2007, pp. 32-36.

“The Afterlife of the Empire Style, the Indies Architecture and Art Deco” for The Past in the Present: Contemporary Architecture in Indonesia, Peter J. Nas (ed.) Rotterdam: NAI Press in association with KITLV Leiden, 2007: 131-145.

“The Seen and the Unseen Urban Kaleidoscope” in Jakarta Metropolis Amsterdam: Valiz Publishers, 2007: 17-21.

“Guardian of Memories: Guardhouses in Urban Java,” Indonesia, 81, April 2006: 95-149.

“An Interview with Abidin Kusno,” by Kivanc Kilinc, Metu Journal of the Faculty of Architecture, 23, 1, 2006: 5-18.

“Whither Urban Nationalism? Public Life in Governor Sutiyoso’s Jakarta,” Urban Studies, 41, 12, Nov. 2004: 2377-2394.

(Reprinted in Globalisation and the Politics of Forgetting, edited by Yong-Sook Lee and Brenda S.A. Yeoh, London: Routledge, 2006: 83-100 and On Global Grounds: Urban Change and Globalization, edited by Julia Nevarez. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2009: 61-74.

“Visualizing Ethnic Chinese: Towards an Agenda for Research,” Chinese Heritage Center Bulletin, 6, December 2005: 6-11. 

 “The Significance of Appearance in the Zaman Normal, 1927-1942,” in Kota Lama, Kota Baru: Sejarah kota-kota di Indonesia sebelum dan setelah kemerdekaan, [The history of the Indonesian city before and after Independence] edited by Freek Colombijn, Martine Barwegen, Purnawan Basundoro, Johny Alfian Khusyairi (eds) Yogyakarta; Ombak Press, 2005, pp. 493-520.

 “Postcolonial Urbanity: A Review Essay.” The Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, 12, 1, Spring 2005: 96-108

 “Remembering and Forgetting May Riots: Architecture, Violence and the Making of ‘Chinese Culture’ in the Post 1998 Jakarta,” Public Culture, vol.15, no.1, Spring 2003: 149-177.

“’The Reality of One-which-is-two’, Mosque Battles, and Other Stories: Architecture, Religion and Politics in the Javanese World,” Journal of Architectural Education, vol. 57, 1, 2003: 57-67.

"From City to City: Tan Malaka, Shanghai and the Politics of Geographical Imagining,”Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 24, 3, November 2003: 327-339.

"Architecture after Nationalism: Political Imaginings of Southeast Asian Architects," in Tim Bunnell, Lisa Drummond, Ho Kong Chong (eds) Critical Reflections on Cities in Southeast Asia, Singapore: Times Academic Press, 2002: 124-152.

“Professional Dreams: Architecture and the Imagery of ‘Indonesia’ in the Late Colonial Netherlands East Indies.” In Gregory Blue, Martin Bunton, and Ralph Croizier (eds.)Colonialism and the Modern World: Selected Studies, London: M.E. Sharpe, 2002: 265-282.

“Violence of Categories: Urban Design and the Making of Indonesian Modernity,” In Thomas Bender and Michael Peter Smith (eds), Nation and City: Rethinking Place and Identity. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2001: 15-50.

“On Be(ij)ing in the World: ‘Postmodernism,’ ‘Globalization,” and the Making of Transnational Space in China,” (with Anthony King) in Arif Dirlik and Xudong Zhang (eds)., Postmodernism and China. Durham: Duke University Press, 2000: 41-67. 

"Beyond the Postcolonial: Architecture and Political Cultures in Indonesia," Public Culture, vol. 10, issue 3, Spring, 1998: 549-575.

"Custodians of (Trans)nationality: Metropolitan Jakarta, Middle Class Prestige and the Chinese.” City, Space, Globalization: An International Perspective, edited by Hemalaka C. Dandekar, College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1998: 161-170.

"Modern Beacon and Traditional Polity: Jakarta in the Time of Sukarno," Journal of Southeast Asian Architecture, vol. 2, no. 1, November 1997: 25-45.

"Angels in the Temple: The Aesthetic Construction of Citizenship in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum," (with Greig Crysler), Art Journal, vol. 56, no. 1, Spring 1997: 52-64.

Guest Co-Editor: Theme Issue of Journal:

“Changing Asia,” (co-editor with Marco Cenzatti and Lisa Findley), Theme Issue of Journal of Architectural Education, 63, 2, 2010

“Runaway City / Leftover Spaces” (co-editor with Melani Budianta and Hilmar Farid), Theme Issue of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 12, 4, 2011

Book Reviews:

Planning the Megacity: Jakarta in the Twentieth Century by Christopher Silver. New York: Routledge, 2008, College Art Association Reviews (CAA.Reviews), July 1, 2010 available in http://www.caareviews.org/reviews/1471

Globalization, the City and Civil Society in Pacific Asia. Edited by Mike Douglass, K.C. Ho and Giok Ling Ooi. London and New York: Routledge, 2008. Pacific Affairs 83 (2), 2010: e23-e24.

Vientiane: Transformation of a Lao Landscape by Marc Askew, William S. Logan and Colin Long. International Development Planning Review, 29, 1, 2007: 122-123.

Chinese Indonesian: State Policy, Monoculture and Multiculture, edited by Leo Suryadinata. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, Pacific Affairs, 79, 4, Winter 2006-2007: 705-707

Engineers of Happy Land: Technology and Nationalism in a Colony, by Rudolf Mrazek (Princeton University Press, 2002) for Indonesia, 2003: 165-66 (Reprinted in Meta Science); Long version appeared in Sketsa, 4, 2, 2004: 158-164.

Postcolonial Urbanism: Southeast Asian Cities and Global Processes, edited by Ryan Bishop, John Philips and Wei-Wei Yeo, Pacific Affairs, 76, 4, 2004: 674-675.

The Unknown City: Contesting Architecture and Social Space, by Ian Borden, Joe Kerr, Jane Rendell, with Alicia Pivaro (eds.) (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2001) for International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 27, 3, 2003: 766-768.


2010: Senior Research Fellow, Asian Research Institute, National University of Singapore

2007-2009: SSHRC Standard Research Grant for research on the contemporary remaking of the capital city of Indonesia.

2007: Visiting Fellow, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Uppsala University, March-June.

2006: Research Development Funds, College for Interdisciplinary Studies, University of British Columbia

2006: Theme Development Fund, Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies on Visual Cultures of Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia and North America

2005: Early Career Senior Scholar, Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, University of British Columbia

2005: Research Fellow, Netherlands Institute of War Documentation, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Summer.

2004-2009: UBC-Canada Research Chair in Asian Urbanism and Culture (included CFI Funds for Asian Urban Lab)


 “(Re-)Searching Modernism: Indonesia after Decolonization,” Non-West Modernist Past, Architectural Association Asia and Singapore Institute of Architects, Singapore Management University, January 16, 2011.

“The Dilemma of Our Time” International Conference on Space, Culture and Power: Identity and Civility in the Post-Authoritarian Urban Asia. Keynote presentation, organized by Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Humanities, University of Indonesia, August 4, 2010.

“Researching Southeast Asia: Debates in Architecture and Urbanism,” 5th Asian Graduate Forum on Southeast Asian Studies. Keynote address, Asian Research Institute, Singapore, July 9, 2010.

“Politics + Space: Peri-urbanization Redux,” Asian Research Institute Seminar, Singapore, June 1, 2010

“Researching Violence,” Conference on Spaces of History / Histories of Space: Emerging Approaches to the Study of the Built Environment, Keynote Session, Townsend Center for the Humanities and the College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley, April 29-May 1, 2010.

“Urban Jakarta and the End of the Peasantry,” Asian Institute, University of Toronto, March 30, 2010

“A Hero in Passage: The Chinese and the Activist Youth in Riri Riza’s GieFilmic Interventions in Southeast Asia, Centre for Integrated Area Studies, Kyoto University, 14 November, 2009

“Homogeneity in the (Post)colonial Space?” The Aga Khan Award for Architecture Knowledge Construction Workshop II: Homogeneity of Representations. Wedgewood Hotel, Vancouver February 27, 2009

“Distance Collaborations: East Asian Pop Cultures and the peranakan Chinese in the 1980s Indonesia,” workshop on Popular Culture Co-productions and Collaborations in East and Southeast AsiaCenter for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, December 11, 2008

“Architecture and the National Imagination,” Narrative, Memory and History in Indonesian Arts, Media and Culture, The Yale Indonesian Forum Workshop, Luce Hall, Yale University, New Haven, April 12, 2008.

“Stealing Twilight: Jakarta Bay, the Pioneer and the Last Frontier,” The Origin and Future of Southeast Asian Coastal Cities: Link, Layering, and Transformation, Asian Research Institute, National University of Singapore, March 1, 2008.

“Exemplary State: Governing Urban Subjects in the New Indonesia,” York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR), Faculty of Social Sciences, the Urban Institute, and the Department of Geography, York University, Toronto, February 4, 2008

“Spectacle and Governmentality in the New Indonesia,” Cities in Conflict (Sponsored by the Melon Foundation), Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, Northwestern University, October 19, 2007.

“Public Space and the Typology of Our Memories,” Symposium on Public Space, Identities and Collective Memories. Department of Literature, Faculty of Cultural Studies, University of Indonesia, August 10, 2007.

 “The Regime, the City and the Urban Subject: Jakarta in the Post-Suharto Era,” Global Cities in Asia, Centre for East and South East Asian Studies, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, April 2, 2007.   

“Architecture and Urbanism in the New Indonesia,” Spring 2007 Seminar, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, March 29, 2007.

“’Back to the City’: Notes on Urban Architecture in the New Indonesia,” Southeast Asian Studies Program, Cornell University, Ithaca, February 16, 2007. 

“Dreaming a Jam-Free City: Preliminary Notes on the New Bus Transportation in an Indonesian Metropolis,” Centre for Southeast Asia Studies Lecture, University of California, Berkeley, October 19, 2006

“Space, Power and Identity in Urban Indonesia: A Historical Sketch,” Informality in Motion: The Urban Poor’s Struggle over the Urban Space in Indonesia, Urban Poor Links and Jakarta Urban Poor Consortium, Bali September 9, 2006.

“Snapshots and the Family Album: Preliminary Notes in the Kwee Family Collection,”Regime Change and Cultural Dynamics: Family, Networks and Representation: New Approaches to the Study of Indonesian Chinese Life in Southeast Asia and Beyond, 1920s-1970s, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, July 1, 2006.

“Colonial Cities in Motion: Urban Symbolism and Popular Radicalism,” Shared History / Decolonising the Image, Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, June 2, 2006.

“Refashioning the Past: Architecture in Contemporary Indonesia,” The Past in the Present: Architecture in Contemporary Indonesia, KITLV Workshop, Professor Teeuw-fund, the NAi, the Research School CNWS and the International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS), KITLV, Leiden, December 12, 2005. 

“The Significance of Appearance, Urban Indonesia 1927-1942,” Public Lecture, Faculty of Engineering, University of Indonesia, September 14, 2005.

“Colonial / Postcolonial Urban Utopias,” Cities as Modern Utopia / Dystopia in Europe, Asia and America, Alice Berline Kaplan Center for the Humanities 2004-2005 Lectures, Northwestern University, May 2, 2005.

“A Different Utopia? Changing Perspectives on Urban Asia,” St John’s College Speakers Series: Living Out the Metropolis, University of British Columbia, November 15, 2004.

 “Guardhouses and Boundary Creation in Urban Indonesia: A Political History,”Decolonizing Societies: The Reorientation of Asian and African Livelihoods under Changing Regimes, Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD), Amsterdam, December 12, 2003.

“From ‘Pendopo’ to ‘Posko’: A Historical Interpretation” Public Lecture, Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, University of Indonesia, November 18, 2003.

“The Phantom of Suharto?” Panel on Contemporary Politics and Political Cultures in Southeast Asia,” Cold War as Global Conflict Project, International Center for Advanced Studies, New York University, New York, May 21, 2003.  

“’The One-Which-is-two,’ Mosque Battles, and Other Tales: Architecture, Religion and Politics in the Javanese World,” Keynote Address, Identity and Space: Crossing the Boundaries XI: An Interdisciplinary Conference, Binghamton University, State University of New York, May 3, 2003.

 “Whither Nationalist Urbanism?” International workshop Mega-urbanization in Asia and Europe: Directors of Urban Change in a Comparative Perspective, International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, December 12, 2002.

“Tan Malaka and the Politics of Geographical Imaginations” Postcolonialism and Geography, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, Singapore, December 9, 2002.

 “Glodok on Our Minds: Representing Forgotten Places of Riots.” Workshop on Globalisation and Forgotten Places, Urban Studies Research Programme, National University of Singapore, Singapore, July 11, 2002.

“Violence, Spatial Politics, and Identity Formations in Glodok, Jakarta.” Workshop on Art, Media, and Violence in Southeast Asia, Department of (Medical) Anthropology, Harvard University, May 10, 2002.

“Remembering and Forgetting May Riots: Architecture, Violence and the Making of ‘Chinese Culture’ in the Post 1998 Jakarta.” Asian Cultural Studies Workshop, the Humanities Center and Asia Center, Harvard University, November 29, 2001.

"City and Consciousness Change in Colonial Indonesia, 1890-1920," International Conference, Locating the City: The Idea, Place, Politics, and Everyday Practice of the Urban, Bilkent University, Antalya, Turkey, May 4, 2001.

"Tan Malaka's Shanghai Memoir: Urban Form and Political Consciousness," New York University and Harvard University Workshop on Shanghai Urban Culture: Comparative Perspectives, April 22, 2001.

"The Urban World: Views from Other Regions" Roundtable Discussion, Navigating Crisis and Creativity: African Cities in the Larger Urban World, Africana Studies, Columbia University, February 16, 2001.

"'The One-which-is-two,' Mosque Battles, and Other Stories: Architecture, Religion and Politics in the Javanese World," The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Spring 2001 An Evening With Lecture Series, February 5, 2001.

“Architecture After Nationalism: The Political Imaginings of Southeast Asian Architects. Spring 2000 Lectures: Looking Forward: The Future of the Future. The Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, Columbia University, New York, March 3, 2000.

“Embodied Nations, Vanishing State: The Making and Unmaking of the Mass Subject in Jakarta. Spring 1999 Rice School of Architecture Student Lecture Series, Rice University, February 15, 1999.

“Mass Subjects, National Imagination, and the Culture of Fear in Indonesian Metropolis.”Embodied Utopias: Gender, Social Change, and the Built Environment, Center for Gender Studies, University of Chicago, April 17, 1999.


Remaking the City: Theories, Policies and Experiences, IAR 515C, UBC

Housing (In Indonesia): Theories and Practices, IAR 515N, UBC

The City and the National Imagination, IAR 508, UBC

Economic and Social Change, IAR 500, UBC

Memory, Violence and Urban Reconstruction, IAR 515V, UBC

Urban Popular Cultures and National Identities in East Asia, Sungkyunkwan University, Korea.

Postcolonial Urbanism, ARTH 484B/573D, SUNY Binghamton

Introduction to Art and Architecture of the Asian World, ARTH 104, SUNY Binghamton

City and Visuality in the Colonial World, ARTH 470B/573C, SUNY Binghamton

Contemporary Issues in Art, ARTH 102, SUNY Binghamton

The Crisis of the Modern City, V99.0103, Metropolitan Studies Program, New York University

Research Methods in Metropolitan Studies, V99.0501, New York University

Reimagining the City: People, Power and Place, V99.0102, New York University


Co-Director, CFI-funded Asian Urban Lab, Institute of Asian Research, UBC

Acting Chair, Centre for Southeast Asian Research, IAR, UBC (Sept 2007– Jan 2008)

Member, Management Committee, Centre for Southeast Asian Research, IAR, UBC

Member, IAR Appointment, Promotion and Tenure (APT) Committee (2008-2009)

Council Member, Institute of Asian Research, UBC.

Committee Member, Building, Liaison and Teaching Committees, IAR, UBC (2004- )



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