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Jakarta Post

Charles Coppel: The accidental provocateur

  • Aimee Dawis

    Contributor

Jakarta   /   Tue, November 3 2009   /  10:33 am

JP/Wendra AjistyatamaCharles Coppel never intended to become one of the world’s leading experts on Chinese Indonesians. At first, he had his heart set on becoming a diplomat and learning about different cultures and languages.An avid student of Greek, Italian and French, the Australian dutifully enrolled in law following the advice of his father’s friend who had helped establish the Australian diplomatic corps.But Coppel was dismayed to learn in his second year at university that the Australian government discouraged its diplomats from speaking the languages of the countries they would be posted to, to prevent them from getting “too close” to their host countries.So Coppel decided against joining the foreign services and practiced law for five years instead.While working as a part-time barrister, he also pursued his growing interest in the Indonesian language and culture as a pos...