From ‘sick nation’ to ‘superpower’: Anti-corruption knowledge and discourse and the construction of Indonesian national identity (1997–2019)

university melbourne, Susan Ainsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anti-corruption knowledge and discourse emerged in the mid-1990s promoted by powerful international actors and organizations, mostly targeting countries in the ‘Third World’. In this paper, we seek to decolonize this knowledge and show how it influences the construction of national identity of former colonies. Our case is a country with a reputation as one of the most corrupt in the world: Indonesia. Long celebrated in the West for its economic growth and political stability, in 1997 the Asian Financial Crisis forced Indonesia to accept financial aid from the International Monetary Fund accompanied by harsh conditions that resulted in domestic turmoil. Using discourse-historical method, we trace how national identity was constructed in The Jakarta Post from 1997 through two decades of Western-influenced corruption-related reform. Our findings show how acceptance of Western anti-corruption discourse and knowledge early on contributed to highly negative internal constructions of Indonesian national identity, but over time, this gave way both to more positive self-presentations as well as greater critique and contestation of this knowledge. Moreover, alternative rationales for anti-corruption were asserted that drew from shared understandings of Islam and Indonesia’s independence. Overall, we show how this type of internationally dominant management and organizational knowledge (MOK) colonized how Indonesia was imagined but that contestation was possible, enabled by improvements in economic circumstances. We conclude by arguing that to understand the colonizing effects of MOK, it is necessary to look at the impact of management knowledge beyond the boundaries of organizations, including at the level of national identities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)773-797
Number of pages25
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • Anti-corruption
  • Decoloniality
  • Development management
  • Discourse
  • National identity


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