Author Archives: Bradley R. Simpson

About Bradley R. Simpson

Associate professor of history and Asian studies at the University of Connecticut and the author of Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and U.S.-Indonesian Relations, 1960-1968 (Stanford, 2010). He is currently writing a global history of self-determination since 1945, as well as a history of U.S.-Indonesian international relations during the reign of Suharto (1966-98). Simpson is also founder and director of the Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project at the nonprofit National Security Archive.

The Continued (if Limited) Emancipatory Potential of Self-Determination

This post is part of a symposium on Joseph Massad’s essay “Against Self-Determination.” All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Joseph Massad’s article “Against Self-Determination” offers a passionate, even polemical critique of what he calls the Wilsonian vision of self-determination. This is not the Wilsonian vision as laid out by Erez Manela, however, but rather a legitimizing ideology for the “right of conquest” of settler-colonial nations and peoples, as against the more emancipatory vision of Lenin and like-minded anticolonial nationalists. “Settler-colonists would only Continue reading →

“Democratic Development” in Neoliberal Drag

This review examines the book Contesting Development: Participatory Projects and Local Conflict Dynamics in Indonesia, an impact study of the widely lauded Kecamatan Development Program (KDP). The authors argue that KDP contributes to greater accountability, transparency, civic engagement—especially by previously marginalized populations—and nonviolent conflict resolution in areas where it is operating well, primarily through indirect feedback mechanisms poorly accounted for in the traditional economic metrics for evaluating such programs. The review suggests that the authors remain wedded to a set of neoliberal assumptions about development and insufficiently historicize the program’s origins and role in Indonesian politics. Continue reading →

Self-Determination, Human Rights, and the End of Empire in the 1970s

This article explores the intersection between debates about the meaning of human rights and self-determination claims and movements in the 1960s and 1970s. It argues that the human rights politics of the period were an ongoing contest in which alternative conceptions of rights, especially the right of self-determination, emerged from political, ideological, and sometimes even military conflict within and between state bureaucracies, international forums, and NGO boardrooms, with a multiplicity of actors seeking to enlarge or constrain them to suit their own purposes.