In Memoriam: John MacDougall

John MacDougall, a pioneer of using the Internet as a research tool for Indonesian studies, died in Maryland on May 16, aged 83.

Among his many services, he was editor and publisher of Indonesia Publications from 1984 to 2004; creator and moderator of a bilingual Indonesian and English “Apakabar Project” from 1990 to 2002 which attracted 250,000 readers from 96 countries; creator of several research sites on Indonesia, Southeast Asia and the Islamic World, including and

A native of New Jersey, he was a brilliant student. In graduate school at Harvard, John focused on social psychology and taught courses on American race and labor relations, just as the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements were reaching a crescendo. These movements left John with a belief that civil society advocacy was a path to political and social reform, a belief that stayed with him until the end.

He taught at the National University of Singapore, Cornell, the University of Alabama at Huntsville (where he chaired the Department of Sociology), and other universities before joining the U.S. government as a Southeast Asia specialist from 1977 to 1984. It was in 1984 that he decided to strike out on his own as a chronicler of Indonesia and became an invaluable friend and resource to generations of Indonesian and others working on Southeast Asia worldwide.

John used the online bulletin “Inside Indonesia” to publish many of his lists of useful websites by theme: “Justice on the Net”, “Labour on the Net”, “Aceh on the Net”, “Sulawesi on the Net” and so on. Most of these appeared in 2004, 2005, and 2006.

Most of John’s thousands of online friends never met him. He worked quietly out of his home, shunning self-publicity, accolades, or any public expressions of gratitude from the many Indonesians and non-Indonesians he helped. He did more for Indonesian studies over the years than many much better-known figures. He was an early fan of Facebook but became one of those quickly disillusioned by issues of invasion of privacy for profit. The explosion of social media and search sites meant that much of John’s pioneering work has not always received the recognition it deserves.

For anyone researching the end of the New Order, however, John’s archives remain invaluable. And as a champion of justice and human rights, he will always be a model of how to use information for anti-authoritarian ends.

John leaves his wife of 52 years Sock Foon MacDougall, a sociologist with current interest in human trafficking and indigenous peoples; a brother, Terry MacDougall, emeritus director and professor of the Stanford Japan Center, and a sister, Diane Stephenson, a retired elementary school teacher.

— Submitted by Sidney Jones