Apr 17, 2024 Last Updated 3:10 AM, Apr 15, 2024


Published: Jul 22, 2007

Review: This book is a useful contribution to a very small body of scholarly work in English on Indonesian literature.

Pam Allen

This book deals with an area that has had little scholarly coverage in English, namely the literature that engages with the socio-political upheaval and violence in Indonesia in 1965—66. It systematically analyses the various manifestations of political violence – arbitrary arrest, torture, disappearance and confiscation of property.

The book takes as its theoretical starting point Theodor Adorno’s belief that ‘Art is the negative knowledge of the actual world.’ (p. 3) It is a theoretical model that works well. The literature chosen for discussion deals with an emerging socio-political consciousness in Indonesia, a process that Hoadley views as consisting of three phases – protest (against the violence), identification (with the victims) and undermining (of the regime).

The book covers a large number of works by ten different authors. Most scholars of Indonesian literature would be familiar with all or most of these works. Given the controversial nature of the issue of ‘negating’ a prevailing view, one wonders whether there may be other literary works, published ‘underground’ or unpublished, which the author could have unearthed and which would have considerably added to the originality of her work. Furthermore, although Hoadley does pin her theoretical model down to one particular theorist, the process of reading the literature in the light of the prevailing hegemony is also an established practice among scholars of Indonesian literature.

Overall, however, this book is a useful contribution to the very small body of scholarly work in English on Indonesian literature. Its particular strengths are its accessibility, and breadth of material making it a useful resource for undergraduate students of Indonesian literature.

Anna-Greta Nilsson Hoadley, Indonesian literature vs New Order orthodoxy: the aftermath of 1965—66, Copenhagen, NIAS, 2005, ISBN 8791114616, A$ 66.95

Pam Allen (Pam.Allen@utas.edu.au)

Review: Zurbuchen’s edited volume is a timely intervention into discussions of memory and the writing of history.

Paul Tickell

For the thirty plus years of the Suharto regime (1966—1998) there was a conscious effort in Indonesia to rewrite national history, to efface politically difficult memories and replace them with more malleable and acceptable ones, as well as silencing those who refused to toe the line of ‘official history’.

Zurbuchen’s edited volume, which contains 14 contributions by various Indonesian and non-Indonesian commentators, is a timely intervention into discussions of memory and the writing of history. The volume has a good balance of Indonesian and non-Indonesian voices, academic and non-academic writing. It is a volume that analyses both creative responses to memory, violence and repression (Goenawan Mohamad’s powerful libretto Kali is translated and discussed) and more conventional, but equally powerful, analyses of the historical archive (for instance, Dan Lev’s ‘Memory, Knowledge and Reform’ and Katherine McGregor’s ‘Nugroho Notosusanto: The Legacy of a Historian in the Service of an Authoritarian Regime’). Of particular interest are the essays which explore the intersection of ‘memory’ (real or manufactured) and ‘history’ – especially Andi F Bakti’s ‘Collective Memories and the Qahhar Movement’, which looks at contemporary perceptions of Kahar Muzakar’s rebellion in Sulawesi in the 1950s. This essay is particularly pertinent to the non-military options of the current ‘war on terror’, which seek to use education to wean potential acolytes off ‘terror’. What Bakti’s chapter tells us is that some fifty years after Muzakar’s rebellion and his death, and after a similar period of Indonesian education and mass media, the historical, or perhaps better, mythological Kahar Muzakar remains a powerful and inspirational force for many in Sulawesi. The perceptions and ‘memories’ that Bakti describes seem so at odds with the conventional historical record, that secular, ‘rational’ strategies to combat such dissent/terror may be futile.

Beginning to Remember is a stimulating and rewarding collection that will appeal to all those with an interest in post-New Order/Suharto Indonesia in particular and post-authoritarian societies in general. It is a book that I recommend to all those who wish to understand the problems that confront contemporary Indonesia and who wish to value the solutions that Indonesians are bringing to their problematic past.

Mary S Zurbuchen, Beginning to remember: the past in the Indonesian present, Singapore, University of Singapore Press/Washington, University of Washington Press, 2005, ISBN 9971693038, A$ 49.95

Paul Tickell (P.Tickell@adfa.edu.au).

Review: Chinese Indonesians is an informative and courageous examination of a long-time taboo topic in Indonesia.

Cecilia Agni Hadiyanto

This book is a collection of articles written by academics from a number of countries as a tribute to Charles A Coppel, whose life and research has focused on the Chinese in Indonesia.

The articles in the book discuss the issues facing Chinese Indonesians from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives including history, law, politics and culture. The discrimination within the law, experienced by the Chinese in Indonesia from the colonial era to the present is discussed. Violence against the Chinese, such as the mass murder of Chinese in West Kalimantan during the Japanese occupation, and the May 1998 violence against Chinese, is discussed from legal, religious and political perspectives.

Arief Budiman paints a portrait of the Chinese people from the Suharto era to the present, including indigenous Indonesian perceptions of Chinese before and after May 1998.

Several writers also take up the issue of religion. Confucianism is discussed in its role in the 1945 revolution in Surabaya; and the development of Confucianism from the Suharto era to the present given the Indonesian government’s refusal to acknowledge Confucianism as one of the legal religions in Indonesia. The book also discusses the changes which Buddhism and Confucianism have undergone to adapt to government regulations. Jean Gelman Taylor discusses the influence of the Chinese converts to Islam in Indonesia.

Chinese Indonesians also contains articles dealing with Chinese Indonesian culture. Christine Pitt discusses relationships between men and women during the early part of last century. Helen Pausacker discusses the involvement of Chinese Indonesians in the world of wayang, as sponsors and participants.

>Chinese Indonesians is an informative and courageous examination of a long-time taboo topic in Indonesia.

Edited by Tim Lindsey and Helen Pausacker, Chinese Indonesians: remembering, distorting, forgetting, Melbourne, Monash Asia Institute/Singapore ISEAS, 2005, ISBN 9812302867, A$ 36.95

Cecilia Agni Hadiyanto (subscribe@insideindonesia.org)

Inside Indonesia 84: Oct-Dec 2005

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