Interview with Jamie Stern

‘My presence on the TIP board is a step towards bringing Indo youths together.’

Jamie Stern, a third generation Indo, born in 1987 in Santa Monica, California where she still lives. Her Indo roots come from her mother who was born in Semarang, Indonesia in 1958. After Jamie’s mother’s birth, her family repatriated to The Netherlands where they spent four years before immigrating to the United States in 1962. Jamie is currently finishing her Masters degree in Cultural Geography. For the past five years she has worked as an aviation meteorologist and serves as a board member for The Indo Project (TIP); an international nonprofit organization that promotes Indo history and culture in the English language. I speak with Jamie about TIP and the ethnographic research to ‘fully describe what has happened to the Indos and where they are today; geographically as well as within society’.

Jamie Stern (c) Jamie Stern

A rich mixed heritage
Jamie is TIP’s geography academic and one of their researchers. As the youngest member on the board, she explains to me that she reaches out to other young Indos. Jamie: ‘Though being Indo often means having a very rich mixed heritage, mine is further mixed by the fact that I am half Indo. My other half is Jewish from my father’s side, though I most closely identify with the Indos and regard myself as an Indo-American.’ Being half Indo is not something Jamie likes to point out because she feel like it diminishes the value of being Indo. However, this is a point that some third and fourth generation Indos in the U.S. become stuck on. Jamie explains: ‘In their eyes, they see that they are only half or only a quarter Indo and therefore do not belong. This is not true!’

The value is to unify our Indo culture by providing an organized legitimate academic source of information that can be used to stimulate further marginalization through generalization.

Why the research?
The research is being conducted with two goals in mind. First of all, it is the final research required for Jamie’s Masters degree. Jamie: ‘It will preserve a standing document in academia that makes available a plethora of statistical and subjective information about the U.S. Indo population.’ Second, it will be available through TIP as a research document for the entire Indo community and global community at large as an opportunity to perpetuate Indo awareness. Jamie: ‘The value is to unify our Indo culture by providing an organized legitimate academic source of information that can be used to stimulate further marginalization through generalization.’ For Jamie it is important to take on the responsibility of documenting the unique Indo culture and preserving it for future generations.

Jamie: ‘Another piece of interesting information coming from the survey – and something to have pride in – are the Indos’ educational accomplishments. Both second and third generations surpass the U.S. national average with Masters and advanced professional degrees.’

Research results so far
At this moment almost nine hundred people from all over the world have completed the research survey. Jamie tells a little bit about the results so far: ‘In the U.S. forty-five percent of the survey responses have come from third-generation Indos. This clearly indicates a surge in heritage and cultural interest by our younger community. Our third generation is very interested in learning more about their heritage but one issue is the language barrier.’ Almost sixty-five percent of this group learned English as their first language. Only five percent of those individuals went on to learn Dutch. This means that sixty percent of them cannot understand the Dutch documentaries on the Indo experience. Jamie adds to this: ‘Almost seventy percent of the third-generation English-speaking group said that they would love to be able to read books and watch films and documentaries about the Indo experience. This brings to surface the necessity for our younger Indo generations to have information accessible in English*.’

My presence on the TIP board is a step towards bringing Indo youths together, sort of bridging the gap that currently exists.

Connected through food
The last subject we discuss is how U.S. Indo youths meet each other typically through family and friends, and through the use of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Jamie: ‘There are no organizations or clubs that I know of in California or in the U.S. that specifically target Indo youths. My presence on the TIP board is a step towards bringing Indo youths together, sort of bridging the gap that currently exists.’ How Indo youths connect to their heritage seems to be somewhat universal, Jamie: ‘Eighty-nine percent of the younger Indos reported that they felt connected through food and meals, and also through family gatherings and listening to stories from their grandparents.’

The Indo Project (c) Jamie Stern

* Right now, a documentary is a major goal and very high on TIP’s priority list. In order to accomplish this as a non-profit organization, they need more funding. 

Jamie: ‘We are seeking funding sources such as foundations or corporations in the U.S. or the Netherlands. Another priority for funding is to find the money to translate material from Dutch into English. It is sad that there is a wealth of information available in the Dutch language and hardly any in the English language that would help Indo youth to find out more about their heritage. If any of the Indisch 3.0 readers can help in finding funding or professional translation, please contact me via jamies@theindoproject.org.’

5 gedachten over “Interview with Jamie Stern”

  1. Half indo does not exist. An indo means that you are mixed(indonesian with europe). Although you have 1% indonesian blood and 99% european, then you are still an indo!

    1. @van Beek
      So you consider a person who has 99% Indonesian blood and only 1% European an “Indo” ? I don’t think so, to me he is obviously Indonesian and I totally agree with CJ Lentze how you approach this matter

      1. Een indo is iemand die zowel Europese als indonesische(hier vallen ook de chinese, arabische, indiase,molukse papuase Indonesiers) voorouders heeft. De ene indo heeft meer Indonesisch bloed, de ander meer Europees. Dus etnisch gezien is diegene met 99% Indonesish bloed en 1%Europees bloed een indo. Misschien voelt hij/zij zich Indonesisch, dat is weer een andere kwestie. Wilders heeft ook een druppel Indonesisch bloed, hij is dan ook etnisch een indo, maar voelt zich een Nederlander. En dat mag…

  2. I expected that someone was going to comment on the ‘half Indo’ part, and I personally think it’s all a matter of which angle you approach this from. When looking solely at ethnicity, you’re right that there is no ‘half’ to it, as an Indo is mixed (Indonesian/European) per definition, and forms a subset of ‘Eurasian’. In other words, every Indo-European is ‘half’ this, ‘half’ that.

    But if you look at it from a cultural angle, and find yourself with one parent who has a heritage that is unrelated to Indonesia, the Dutch Indies, or the Netherlands, it’s not strange to identify as ‘half Indo’. Let’s say a child in America is born from an Indo father and a Puerto Rican mother, and both parents maintain aspects of their cultural heritage in their private lives and in raising the child. The child may identify as strongly as Indo as it does Puerto Rican. While in other families, the child of one Indo parent may either identify more with one heritage but not the other- or it may not care about their cultural heritage at all.

    I see ‘half Indo’ being used more playfully and tongue-in-cheek, and not quite so seriously.
    The problem with saying that ‘half Indo’ is not a valid term to use for oneself, is that it assumes that the person calling themselves ‘half Indo’ is always Eurasian, i.e. that the ‘other’ parent is either white or Asian. There are also people of Indo descent whose other parent may be of African, Indian, Middle-Eastern, Native American descent.
    And even for those ‘one-Indo-parent’ kids that are actually Eurasian, the ‘other’ parent’s cultural identity -perhaps French, or Korean, or Filipino, or Italian- may be strongly present in raising the child. American actress Sumalee Montano, half Thai/Filipina, identifies primarily as Filipina, though she doesn’t dismiss her Thai heritage.

    I myself have an Indo mother, but my father is Caribbean, from Curaçao. He is mixed himself, black/Hindustani. Ethnically, I’m not Eurasian, but culturally I have an affinity toward my Indo side because I was raised with it, but only little toward Curaçao because I never had good relations with my father’s family.

    I think Indos of all people, being one of the larger mestizo demographics in the world, should appreciate the idea that ethnicity is a dynamic and malleable thing, and not something rigid to be defined in a set of rules or criteria.

  3. With that out of the way, I actually have a couple of comments on TIP itself.

    If 5 percent of the Indo youths have mastered Dutch, and translation of the Dutch resources, books, and documentaries is desired, then why don’t they first try to make work of that on a small scale? I know that someone who has learned a language will not necessarily be an expert on translating, certainly not on a professional level, but that doesn’t seem to be the immediate concern in this case. With low funding, a small group of people could start translating one book at a time for a small audience, to be distributed and discussed in an informal setting. They could conceivably get assistance from someone who’s fluent in Dutch, either a Dutch language teacher in America, or a non-professional native Dutch speaker from within the community.

    As for raising awareness and interest, I feel that TIP could combine the informative aspect of the project with something that’s a bit more low-threshold/easy-access, i.e. a periodically-held gathering of an informal nature, featuring food and performing arts and music, stuff like that. I think that those two aspects, the storage and preservation of information and history on one hand, and the more informal expression of cultural aspects, feed each other. If it’s just the former, despite the apparent surge of interest there is among people now, there are certain people who won’t be interested because it’s cold, bare facts, and you may lose other people who are initially interested, but jump off along the way.

    Finally, I’m convinced that viewing the Indo demographic as culturally monolithic rather than as a continuum between Dutch/European and Indonesian, could be ultimately self-damaging. I know that I prefer to look at Indo culture as ‘multi-heritage’, and that both the European and the Indonesian/Asian aspects of it are multifaceted. Stress similarities too much, and you may create something that doesn’t appeal to some young Indos because it appears too elitist, exclusive, and insular.

    I’m confused about the ‘stimulating marginalisation through generalisation’ phrasing. I thought marginalisation and generalisation were two negative things, and that it should be combatted, not stimulated.
    I was further confused about what the ‘marginalisation’ in the article could refer to, because I can’t imagine how a demographic that does above-averagely in terms of educational success, could be ‘marginalised’. If the marginalisation refers to a failure to acknowledge that Indos are a proper cultural demographic, either by the public or the gov’t, then I don’t immediately see the problem, because an Indo would register as primarily mixed race of Asian w/ White. I believe that, in this case, there is not so much a process of marginalisation going on, as much as it is the majority of American Indos either having been assimilated, or choosing not to emphasize their background in public, if they identify with it at all.

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