Anthony Reid (editor)
The tsunami brought Aceh to global consciousness. It changed from being a backwater with a nasty on-going war to a place of urgent post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction. The edited collection, Verandah of Violence: The Background to the Aceh Problem, is a timely reminder to readers that despite the peace accord, successful elections and the plethora of foreigners currently residing in the province, it must not be forgotten that severe conflict and its impact on all sectors of what was a closed society to the outside world was the norm for over a decade.
A wide range of international scholars who are engaged in primarily history and politics have presented an overarching chronological history of Aceh in which the ongoing themes of statehood/sovereignty and violence are highlighted. The chapters come together in their chronological order and in the sometimes diverse views that they offer, particularly in the contemporary period. I found this to be a strength of the book, for there are in fact many ‘Acehs’ experienced by different players. These silo experiences are a direct result of the war and of mistrust, so that no one researcher can be trusted by all parties. As much as one might aim to be neutral, such a position is impossible to maintain on the ground. Individuals operate on many different levels, particularly at the elite level, but also at village level. During the conflict, silence and sweet talk became the means of survival.
Anthony Reid has done an excellent job of drawing together a variegated picture of the violence, both in its contemporary garb and also the ways in which the violence has historical underpinnings. The book is highly recommended to all those readers who want a greater understanding of the underlying complexities of Aceh. ii
Reviewed by Barbara Leigh (Barbara.Leigh@uts.edu.au)