Political changes since the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998 have had a significant impact on linguistic and discursive practices in Indonesia. The language policy of the state has become less restrictive than in the past, when Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) was vigourously promoted as one of the symbols of the unity of the country's diverse ethnic groups. Monolingualism in public space has given way to more fluid and pluralistic language use, and regional autonomy legislation enacted in 1999 has encouraged expressions of regional identities and aspirations, opening up a space for the promotion and use of regional languages in the media, education and the bureaucracy.
Concurrently, technological development, in particular widespread access to the internet, has exposed Indonesian society much more directly than before to global flows of information, giving rise to changes in stemming in part from sources outside Indonesia, but interpreted and shaped according to local conditions and socio-cultural practices. The meeting of these two vectors, one generated internally and the other coming from exposure to global trends, is producing a situation of diversity, fluidity and change in language use and discursive practice in contemporary Indonesian society.
While contributors to this volume discuss Indonesian-language expression at the national level, a particular focus on the collection is on regional, local and minority languages, where problems associated with decentralisation find their counterpart in the role that language plays in the workings of regional and national identity politics.