Zurbuchen_Introduction

Zurbuchen_Introduction - Critical Dialogues in Southeast...

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Unformatted text preview: Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies These new perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies reconsider tra- ditional relationships among scholars, texts, archives, field sites, and subject matter. Volumes in the series feature inquiries into historiography, critical ethnography, colonialism and post coloni- alism, nationalism and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, science and technology, politics and society, and literature, drama, and film. This scholarship sheds light on shifting contexts and contests over forms of knowing and modes of action that inform cultural politics and shape histories of modernity. Imagined Ancestries of Vietnamese Communism: Ton Duc Thang and the Politics of History and Memory by Christoph Giebel Beginning to Remember: The Past in the Indonesian Present Edited by Mary S. Zurbuchen Beginning To Remember THE PAST IN THE INDONESIAN PRESENT Edited by MARY S. ZURBUCHEN SINGAPORE UNIVERSITY PRESS in association with UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON PRESS Seattle ' ' 11,473 ANOTHER DFTIIE Pm F’lflF/I‘gfigg-u as gig-952,7gfigsyrfiflglo mky u. 57-0 800450;; 51.55 m a > FRO” "gum/m INTRODUCTION Cartoon by Nicholson from The Australian <http://www.nicholsoncartoons.com.au>. Reprinted with permission. Historical Memory in Contemporary Indonesia MARY S. ZURBUCHEN his volume began with a conference in April 2001 at the University of California, Los Angeles on the subject of “history and memory” in Indonesia today. The critical event stimulating our thinking was, of course, the abrupt end of the 32—year rule of Suharto in May 1998, which had opened new spaces for addressing national crises and, in the hopes of many Indonesians, for improving troubled social and economic conditions. When former President Suharto stepped down, a flood of relief and euphoria inundated the landscape of public aware- ness. For a time it felt as though the New Order would simply dissolve, and a consensus called reformasi would effortlessly flow over the land, righting past wrongs and dispelling conflict. It wasn’t long before sober realities reappeared, however, and the weight of its history once again burdened Indonesia’s future. Corruption, official secrecy and denial, religious and ethnic violence, and wrongheaded security policies leading to tragedy in East Timor, Aceh and other regions were realized to be persistent phenomena that the removal of Suharto could not dispel. The archipelago looked to be submerged in a sea of troubles including growing unemployment and decline in public services following severe economic contraction and soaring government debt; violent crime and upheavals in major cities; the military—linked sacking and international outcry around the independence referendum in East Timor; unprecedented exposure of corrupt and abusive practices of state- security and justice systems; mounting Islamist militancy; episodes of deadly terrorist attack; and intense and bloody communal and intergroup conflicts in several regions. The unified coherence of Suharto’s New Order was thoroughly discredited, as economic stagnation and growing discord undermined its core themes of stability and state—managed development. 4 Mary S. Zurbuchen This departure of the strong leader, who appeared to have deliberately fostered a kind of collective inability to imagine a post-Suharto future, did have the effect of opening up new possibilities for seeing the past. In the wake of Suharto’s resignation, a surge of reflexive discourse on the New Order enlivened mass media and publishing, public policy debate, arts and culture, popular mobilization, and political activism. Some of 7 this discourse harked back nostalgically to the pre-New Order period of passionate nation-building under charismatic founding President Soekarnol; some of it exhorted moral reform in focusing on the “corruption—collusion-nepotism” (KKN, korupsz', kolusi, nepotisme) of the Suharto regime. At the same time, alternative versions of national history were vaunted in memoirs and academic conferences, while local narratives increasingly contradicted or competed with state claims. Calls were issued from activist groups and victims’ associations to “uncover” (mengungkapkan) events that had formerly been suppressed or highly controversial, most significantly the record of legal and human rights abuses of the New Order state and security apparatus.2 Expectations grew that government would use its powers — through judicial channels,3 the forging of new legislation,4 or the public accounts of fact-finding commissions5 — to open up hidden parts of the past for public scrutiny as part of Indonesia’s new commitment to democratic practices. There would seem to be a great deal of unattractive past to bring under scrutiny. A comprehensive Suharto-period roster of extrajudicial killings, illegal detentions, disappearances, kidnappings, forced removals, suppression of legitimate protest, gender violence and other injustices that various groups of Indonesians now would like to see addressed or redressed would exceed the bounds of discussion here. So would descrip- ‘tion of the systems of political imprisonment, civic disenfranchisement, stigmatization, censorship, secrecy, banning, and official harassment that long were visited upon critics and victims of the authoritarian New _ Order and that nurtured fear, silence and self-censorship in the world’s fourth largest country for more than three decades. Yet the New Order’s military-backed monopoly over the production and interpretation of the (nation’s history clearly served as a key tool in legitimizing the institu- tions of the “secuthy state”. Normative and ideological spheres were ‘ . sharply inscribed through control over textbooks, media and publishing, arts institutes, museums, monuments, public ceremonies, and national symbols. Divergent perspectives, controversial events, and critical voices I , Historical Memory in Contemporary Indonesia 5 were not allowed to compete alongside the official record. Thus, after suharto was gone, the pressure of what needed to be recalled, revisited, and reviewed could be intense, noted historian Taufik Abdullah: “Don’t be surprised if now — after the main pillar of the ‘all-consuming state’ called the New Order has been felled — things that were ‘forgotten’ start to come forth and the validity of what was ‘remembered’ is interrogated” (TEMPO, 22 February 1999, “Yang Terlupakan” [my translation]). These essays, then, represent an exploration of certain expressions, narratives, and interpretations of the past in Indonesia today. We hope to offer some understanding of what concerns Indonesians about their own history and what use they are making of it at present. We seek to examine how and why particular narratives, whether local or national, group or individual, have come to be written or represented. Through these writings we aim to chart some pathways toward deeper insight regarding the various contests over national cohesion, definitions of citizenship or power or identity, and ethnic or religious or regional memory that we witness in Indonesia at present, all of which are sites where the past is articulated or constructed in some way. The Framework of Historical Memory .1. I think how little we can hold in mind, how everything is constantly lapsing into oblivion with every extinguished life, how the world is, as it were, draining itself, in that the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power of memory is never heard, never described or passed on. (Sebald 2001: 24) The terms “history” and “memory” are linked in a creative tension in much recent scholarly work,6 as they are in the chapters of this book. The human sciences have, over the last decades, been heavily inflected by postmodern (and post-colonial, post-structuralist, etc.) paradigms of scholarship reflecting “suspicions about truth and the celebration of ambiguity” (Roth and Salas 2001: 3). The discipline of the historian is no longer a positivist exercise in which facts about the past are secured and ordered, and eyewitness narrative is well understood to conceal as well as to reveal. What can be obscured ranges from marginalized perspectives — the subaltern, as they have come to be called — to horror and crisis. 6 Mary S. Zurbuchen In the West, the challenge of representing the unrepresentable as disinterested “truth” emerged particularly forcefully through studies of the Holocaust. In the wake of World War 11, “history” as a discursive practice could not easily encompass the magnitude of either the Nazi persecution or the full impacts on its survivors. Much more recently, German writer WG. Sebald tried to understand how collective German memory failed to register the traumatic bombing destruction of 31 cities that killed 600,000 civilians in the later part of the war to “cast some light on the way in which memory (individual, collective and cultural) deals with experiences exceeding what is tolerable” (2003: 79). In his critique of epistemology, moving in a somewhat different ‘ direction, Foucault drew on studies of how language represents truth from Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Barthes. In The Order of Things and The Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault outlined not a science of history but a history of consciousness, and his claims that knowledge is made up of different systems of discursive practices have had wide-ranging impact on the human sciences. The combination of these intellectual transitions — the latter a theorizing of knowledge as systems of language practice, the former a growing emphasis on awareness and engagement — has led historian~ Edith Wyschogrod (1998) to an “ethics of memory”.rthat acknowledges the impossibility of recovering or representing the past completely. What are the responsibilities of researching or bringing forward questions of the past, such as mass killing, if we can never really be certain of knowing what actually happened? Whose memories are being represented, through which media, and to what purpose? A decade after the Cold War subsided, Vaclav Havel (1999) reflected that the most essential historical lesson for formerly communist societies is that “the only kind of politics that truly makes sense is one that is guided by conscience”. A sense of the need for ethical perspectives in dealing with the problems of the past is thus a key theme emerging from 20th-century experiences, a viewpoint expressed by Stephen Lewis\ of the International Panel of Eminent Personalities reviewing the 1994 Rwanda killings, when he pointed to the inter- national community’s failure to intervene to prevent genocide, and the “tattered moral core” that still prevented adequate retrospective assess- ment (Lewis 2000).7 The concept of collective or Social memory has clearly become central to understanding “how groups) retain a sense of the past, and how a sense of the past can, inform a group’s politics, religion, art, and social Historical Memory in Contemporary Indonesia 7 life in general” (Roth and Salas 2001: 1). The role of personal memory is also important in shaping and transforming past experience, and its functioning equally problematic. People who have survived traumatic experiencesTmay be unable or unwilling to express themselves; in post- war Germany, says Sebald (2003: 23), “the need to know was at odds with a desire to close down the senses”. American politician and war veteran Bob Kerrey found, to his public discomfort, that his own memories of how Vietnamese civilians were killed at Thanh Phong in 1969 conflicted with accounts of other members of his Navy Seals unit. Sympathizing with Kerrey, novelist Tobias Wolff found in writing his experiences of the American war in Vietnam that he had forgotten certain forceful memories that “didn’t fit my idea of myself”. “Memory is a storyteller,” says Wolff, “and like all storytellers it imposes form on the raw mass of experience. It creates shape and meaning by emphasizing some things and leaving others out” (Wolff 2001). Personal narrative brought into the public sphere also transforms others, with sometimes terrible result; “the social production of hate” between Sikhs and Hindus through rumour and unattributed personal accounts shattered a multi- ethnic community and led to the deaths of thousands of Sikhs in New Delhi following the assassinatiOn of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 (see Das 2001). What I refer to here as the emerging genre of “historical memory” thus acknowledges the intertwined yet discontinuous aspects of indi- vidual and social processing in shaping representations of the past in the present. Also referenced is the declining authority of written narra- tive as the source of historical understanding; today, the public garners “history” from television news, theme parks, and blockbuster movies as well as from textbooks or libraries. Amid the global flow of information and images, particular versions of history or personal memories are unstable, and can be revisited, reframed and recycled for new purposes. The controversy over the “Enola Gay” exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC — in which documentation of Japanese suffering at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was excised, and senior staff re- signed following divisive public debate and Congressional hearings — demonstrates clearly the contentiousness of “questions about for whom, for what objectives, and for whose community” history is presented (see Yoneyama 2001). And written history itself can still bring enormous repercussions, as with the representation of Japan’s role in World War II in its national textbooks, which for decades has strained relations between 8 Mary S. Zurbuc/Jen Japan and its Asian neighbours, for whom memory presents very dif— ferent truths.8 The scope of historical'memory embraces not only fixed texts or other emerging “sites of memory”, but also processes of configuring memory, moments when the past can be reshaped and outcomes remain unresolved. Social memory can be wholly engineered at such moments: the first official act of the newly appointed Iraqi Governing Council in 2003 was to rewrite Iraq’s national history through the declaration of a new national holiday and cancellation of others. In a more nuanced manner, scholars, museologists and others in South Africa are spear- heading vigorous debate over how the indigenous, colonial, and apar- theid histories of the country should be remembered and represented (Walker 2004-). I At moments when societies change direction — whether sudden or prolonged, through violent upheaval or more peaceful rebalancing of power— representations of the past may disappear, be transformed, and acquire or lose authoritativeness. The collapse of communist states in eastern Europe gave the rubble of the Berlin Wall a new patina as important relics; when a German artist tried to claim copyright of a piece of the Wall that he had painted, and which had, been donated to the United Nations, he was told that “you can’t copyright history”. Moments of configuring can involve ruptures in the process of recording the past, and rejection of certain kinds of memory when linked to concerns for security. In a chaotic East Timor in September 1999, in- valuable archives of painstakingly collected, hand-written testimony from victims of violence were destroyed by the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET). During the violence following the popular referendum that decisively chose independence from Indonesia, the agency determined it would be dangerous to leave such records intact.9 At such moments of transition competition between official and un— official histories is intense, and the production or erasure of “memory” can take on a singular urgency. Transitions and “Truth—seeking” I know you are asking today “How long will it take?” I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth pressed to earth will rise again. HOW long? Not long, because the arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.10 Historical Memory in Contemporary Indonesia 9 The 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in the mid-1990s provided a reflective moment for assessing mass violence and globalized conflict as themes of the 20th century. Looking at the scope of dramatic changes presently reconfiguring the world, we can point to the end of the “fearful symmetries” of the Cold War (Geertz 2000). This loosening of a once-familiar bipolar rigidity in world affairs into a shifting and dynamic set of unbalanced, emergent, reshaped, globalizing social and political exchanges and identities — what Clifford Geertz called the “world in pieces” — now requires us to look back at where we were to try and make sense of fundamental changes witnessed at once and everywhere. In this context, Indonesia represents one of what have been called the “transitional” societies — places that are transforming systems determined by older geopolitical patterns into a post—Cold War configu— ration of markets, information, and new democracies. The study of these transitional processes in a country’s economy, governance, applications of law and human rights, or cultural dynamics has become a large and fascinating field. We can look at Indonesia as one locus of these interlinked world-historical processes. Beyond this, however, and moving more deeply into the theme of this book, Indonesia, as it struggles to emerge from habits of the New Order, also belongs to the group of countries coming to terms with legacies of violence or authoritarianism. Such societies are similar in finding it necessary or desirable to overcome portions of their histories in order to shape new futures. In the face of Geertz’s “disassembly” of stable identities and affiliations, which seemingly defies any effort toward integrative understanding of how the world now works, the proliferation, urgency and parallel manner in which societies are revisiting and reassessing the past stands out as one dramatic example of new principles of affinity and » intersection. , A few of the more recent examples from the legion of those available will suffice. Beginning with Europe, Belgium has begun to examine the violence and exploitation of resources which, under King Leopold 11 between 1885 and 1908, led to millions of deaths in the Congo, and has also officially acknowledged its direct role in the 1961 assassination of Patrice Lumumba, independent Congo’s first Prime Minister (New York Times, 21 September 2002, “Belgium”). Other countries are beginning to confront episodes long ignored, even after transitions to new forms of ‘ 10 Mary S. Zurbucben government. Thus Croatians are acknowledging the slaying of ethnic Serbs as the territory became an independent state in 1991 (International Herald Tribune, 20—21 May 2000, “Croatians”). And in recognition of Polish complicity in the murder of Jews, a monument blaming the Nazis was removed from a site where 1,600 Jews were burned to death, when the killers were shown to be non-Jewish Poles (New York Times, 8 April 2001, “Poland”). In Spain, meanwhile, the violence of the Franco period is now the subject of exhibitions, a television series, and efforts to exhume mass graves. In Latin America, where widespread shifts away from military rule spurred intensive transitional justice work, the new president of Argentina has retracted provisions that gave impunity to those implicated in the 30,000 “disappearances” during the 1976—83 dictatorship (New York Times, 18 June 2003, “Now the Dirtiest”), and the Chilean government is seeking to revoke prosecutorial immunity from former president and military strongman Augusto Pinochet. In Mexico, the mass killing of student protestors by soldiers just before the 1968 Olympic games is a subject newly under public scrutiny (New York Times, 7 February 2003, “Mexico”). And in El Salvador, remains were finally laid to rest of 800 people killed by the Salvadoran military in 1981, a massacre details of which were suppressed by the United States as well as the regime (New York Times, 11 December 2000, “In El Salvador”). Countries that have experienced repression and violence on a large scale seem to find it especially difficult to consolidate new national arrangements unless they are able in some measure to come to terms with the past. From Chile and Poland to Sierra Leone or Cambodia, approaches vary considerably. The war crimes tribunal on the former Yugoslavia is one of the most prominent examples of judicial action taken against those accused of violating human rights; nongovernmental organizations and human rights campaigners have also worked to have formal charges brought against notorious figures like Chile’s Pinochet and former president of Chad, Hissene Habre.11 Other processes have involved saying “never again” by making state atrocities public, as with the documentation of secret torture and detention in the renowned report “Brazil: Nunca Mas”.12 In the former East Germany, secret police files were opened for public scrutiny, while in Czechoslovakia strict lustration policies were applied to identify and eliminate communist collaborators from positions of power (see Rosenberg 1996). Historical Memory in Contemporary Indonesia 11 Any such attempts to deal with the past are painful, full of risk, and not always successful. Transcendence over the worst kinds of atrocities may not be entirely achievable; in Russia, successful efforts by rights groups to document the graves of Stalin’s Mass Terror have been given an ambivalent‘reception (New York Times, 11 November 2002, “Spaniards” and 20 October 2002, “As Its Past”). It is difficult to imagine how “justice” will be rendered to the tens of thousands of Rwandan Hutus currently charged with genocide of the Tutsi community and awaiting trial. It may be easier not to remember, but impossible to forget, as Priscilla Hayner (2001) has written in her powerful book surveying the ways that more than 20 countries around the world have used official “truth commissions” to reveal secret abuses and seek acknowledgement of a wide variety of legacies of violence. While admitting the challenges of revealing and defining something called “truth”, transitional justice advocates report that a public reckoning can, nonetheless, bring a variety of benefits. These include clarification and acknowledgement of “what happened”, through lifting veils of denial and secrecy; responding to the needs and interests of victims, through enabling them to tell their stories and have their suffering recognized; contributing to justice and accountability through gathering information that may be used in formal legal proceedings; outlining institutional responsibility and recom— mending reforms; and promoting resolution of conflicts and reduction of tensions.13 / The growing body of experience with truth-seeking endeavours has given rise to optimism as well as critiques and a certain skepticism. Many legal scholars and human rights organizations question whether truth— seeking really leads to either justice or resolution, and how impunity can be limited unless there is prOsecution of offenders.14 The sensitivity of approaches such as granting amnesty to perpetrators who confess their crimes — the most controversial aspect of the renowned South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission — has been used to argue that truth commissions could undermine the foundations of future justice in transitional societies. Still, many point to truth commissions to argue that in societies where the law is weak or corrupt, alternative strategies for making space for victims’ truth outside the courtroom must be given ’ priority. Especially for traumas in the distant past, much can be achieved 12 Mary S. Zurbuchen through shaping a public record in non-judicial ways sometimes termed “historical clarification”. Through investigating the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, where as many as 300 members of a thriving black community were shot, burned, lynched or otherwise abused, a recent Oklahoma state commission’s report spurred public awareness of how government institutions abetted the violence (New York Times, 16 March 2003, “Coming to Grips”). While recognizing that “historical truth” is unattainable, the historian can nonetheless accept the responsibility for “historical truthfulness”, through heightened awareness of the relation- ships between authors and subjects, and the limitations of observer perspective (Morris-Suzuki 2001). The lessOns from various truth—seeking practices — whether local or national, official or community-based — are still evolving across the panoply of societies examining troubled pasts. In one journalist’s account of the day-by—day struggles, mistakes, confliCts, risks and triumphs of South Africa’s commission, Antjie Krog (1998: 21—2) provides a troubled yet memorable reflection on what it meant to articulate both the desire for “truth” and the need for “justice” following apartheid: “If [the commission] sees truth as the widest possible compilation of people’s perceptions, stories, myths, and experiences, it will have chosen to restore memory and foster a new humanity, and perhaps that is‘justice in its deepest sense.” Krog, like many others, doubts whether “reconciliation” can ever be assured as one of the outcomes of truth-seeking. Forgiveness is not among the obligations victims of violence can readily undertake. Yet the. kind of resolution she suggests, the fostering of a new sense of shared humanity, would seem to lie behind the truth-seeking enterprise that currently is closest to Indonesia in both geographic and historical ,memory terms: that of Timor Leste, the newly independent East Timor. A Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (see van Zyl, this volume) is now working to facilitate community-based processes where perpetrators of a defined subset of crimes — many of them members of militias who fled the territory in 1999, and now wish to return — can acknowledge their actions and receive some measure of re—acceptance. The spirit of this effort is expressed in Tetum as: Ho rekonsiliasaun ita hametan unidade iha in: rain Timor Loro-sae. Liu—liu ilm ita nia komunidade. Historical Memory in Contemporary Indonesia 13 By reconciliation we strengthen our unity in Timor Loro—Sae. Thus we have community.” Forgetting and Remembering in Indonesia Certain matters require the generosity of forgetfulness, and others demand the honesty of remembrance. (Barenboim 2001) What does it mean to be Indonesian now, situated in the aftermath of the New Order and enduring economic downturn, political uncertainty, intergroup conflict, separatism, and religious extremism? In answering this question, Goenawan Mohamad (2001) recalls the moment of the 1928 Youth Pledge, when people from the many regions and ethnic groups of the archipelago agreed to “forget” their disparate origins to make themselves part of the new “imagined community” of Indonesia. Building on Renan’s proposition that “forgetting is a crucial factor in the creation of a nation”, Goenawan reflects on what he calls the “ethical moment” of the Pledge, which generated “a myth and a power”, both of which are now in grave danger. He wonders whether the affirmation of universal values within a(uniquely Indonesian “process of plurality” can be sustained at present, when “the forgotten, as it were, are coming‘ back with a vengeance”. ‘ ‘We might posit that questions of how to remember, or invitations for certain kinds of forgetfulness in the representation of the past would, now that the Suharto government’s tight grip on the body of history has loosened, stretch their limbs and occupy a larger space in public life. As the authors in this volume eloquently demonstrate, such questions can be posed from many disciplinary perspectives, evoking a breathtaking range of lived experience and analytic stances. Why is it, then, that we have seen in Indonesia since 1998 so few thorough investigations, commissions,16 trials, textbook overhauls, rehabilitation, or other examples of “getting to the bottom of” any one of the host of dimly understood incidents (peristiwa) that so many believe to have taken place? What is it that constrains and renders hesitant the work of historical memory, so that in Indonesia, as in post-war Germany, “when we turn to take a retrospective view we are always looking and looking away at the same time” (Sebald 2003: ix)? It would be unfair, of course, to expect Indonesian society to deal 14 Mary S. Zurbucben with a diverse legacy of wrongs quickly and neatly.1'7 When countries like Spain and Japan need many decades to confront the record of the Spanish Civil War and World War II, respectively, and Australia’s Prime Minister cannot bring himself to apologize for aboriginal sufferings as part of national “Sorry Day”, Indonesia can be understood to require time to generate the social consensus, astute leadership, and robust institutions needed to come to terms with grievances linked to very different causes and constituencies. Systematic killings such as the “politicide” of the left in 1965 or the “mysterious shootings” of the 1980s, episodic violence such as the shooting of Muslim demonstrators in Tanjung Priok in 1984 or the killing of four Trisakti University students in May 1998, abuses targeting individuals such as the murders of East Java labour organizer Marsinah or Papuan leader Theys Eluay, detentions and torture under military commands, and brutal acts, relocations and impoverishment linked to resource exploitation — there are simply too many sorts of “victims” to make a single narrative of “historical clarification” possible. And there is no single tragic event, criminal category 1 or oppressive system that can serve as a rubric for mobilizing a broad national effort among Indonesians — the way that “the disappeared” in Argentina or “apartheid” in South Africa have done. If Indonesians were to be asked which elements of the past most needed to be aired or explained, some, but by no means all, would point to the events of 1965—6, which led to perhaps a million deaths and massive detentions of communist party members and “sympathizers” around the country.18 This is a view with which most foreign observers Would agree. “ 1965 ” certainly counts as one of the most deadly upheavals of the 20th century; it put into place obsessive internal security systems that eliminated political freedoms nationally and continue to constrain many thousands of Indonesians through suspicion of communist ' “contamination”; and the “30th September Movement of the Indonesian Communist Party”, which gave way to the counter-movement responsible for these horrors and for Suharto’s rise to power, has never been fully explained. Because we have never fully acknowledged the truth of “the 1965 incident”, the argument goes, we will not be able either to end impunity or fully recover our common humanity. However, much of the Indonesian body politic still finds “1965” fairly indigestible, as the failure of former President Wahid’s efforts to provide national leadership on the issue indicates (Zurbuchen 2002: Historical Memory in Contemporary Indonesia 15 571—3).” This is partly due to the persistence of the “discursive phantom of the Communist threat”, in Ariel Heryanto’s (1999) terms, a demon whose reproductions have penetrated historical awareness and popular culture and continue to be invoked to distract attention from one’s own misdeeds or throw the political opposition off guard.20 Many Indonesians, conditioned by the dominance of New Order official history and training in the regime’s version of Pancasila ideology, believe that “1965” was a climactic and desperate moment of national treachery and crisis when the only option was “kill or be killed”, and have little incentive to reconsider this received wisdom. Further, and especially pervasively in Java, the events of “1965” evoke the difficult business of defining and declaring “religiosity” in Indonesia — a problem that has renewed salience at present.21 There are other reasons why assessing the past seems such a hesitant business, of course. The country can be said to have begun a transition from authoritarianism, yet Suharto’s resignation in 1998, dramatic as it was, turned out to be neither unambiguous nor decisive in terms of the “reform agenda”. More than five years later, the military is not strictly under civilian control and government for the most part still serves the interests of the same elite thatrprospered under the New Order.22 Corruption thrives, transparency and accountability are limited, and the justice system is still rife with influence-peddling. There has been limited impact at grass-roots levels from new policies that could foster truth- seeking aims,23 and institutions such as the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnasham) must rely on fragile moral authority rather than large-scale operational resources or legal heft in order to have much influence. Despite the talents 'and energies of nongovernmental groups and advocates of accountability and truth—seeking, their ability to affect institutional and official mechanisms remains limited.24 Yet we need to dig deeper still; I think, to uncover another layer of ambivalence or diffidence regarding the past for many Indonesians. _ In the personal realm, it is clear that victims and survivors of violence must overcome considerable risk and fear to tell their stories. For example, 1965 was particularly disruptive within families and communities, and a great deal of memory remains below the surface. There has been little research on the dynamics of trauma in Indonesia, and few experts who know how to facilitate testimony from victims of violence. Witness protection is a fledgling endeavour being taken up primarily by religious 16 Mary S. Zurbucben groups and the National Women’s Commission. Making private memory public is fraught with the dangers and possible repercussions of naming names, accusations and counterclaims, secrets revealed, and vengeance. In addition, speaking to issues of the past from the locus of the personal may not be comfortable because national history (sejarah nasional) has been the monopoly of government, and ordinary people have not been seen as authoritative sources. Subaltern awareness in Indonesia often means reluctance to counter the hierarchy directly, and avoidance of declaration by the “I” in the act of asserting truth. In a revealing study of how colonial experience is remembered, Stoler and Strassler (2000) interviewed Javanese who had worked for Dutch families in the Netherlands East Indies. They found that their subjects were reticent about personal feelings, and would often “speak past, not back to, the colonial archive”, perhaps under the shadow of New Order authorized history. Most public personal narrative in Indonesia fits the script of the “eyewitness to history” genre, as found in official oral history projects to record the memories of revolutionary “heroes”. One of the features of the recent past has been the emergence of personal memory as a touchstone for new histories. Whether among the rape victims of the Jakarta riots of 1998, the million or more Indonesians recently displaced from their towns and villages by violent conflict, ostracized former military and political leaders, or the families of political prisoners stigmatized under the New Order, there are wellsprings of remembrance that are starting to flow. Of course, individual memoirs and autobiographies have long been appearing in Indonesia, and they give us important windows on the imagination and experience of national identity and nation-building. But enabling victims of disruption and repression to speak and to be heard is an important and extremely difficult task.” As Dwyer and Santikarma’s research in Bali shows, language itself may be incommensurate to the articulation of memory; in 1965, all it took was a word to label someone a communist and ensure his or her death (Dwyer and Santikarma, unpublished). The issue of “giving voice” to ordinary Indonesians’ experiences of the past means a powerful shift in the way agency and authority are generally articulated. Public life in Indonesia, wrote Clifford Geertz (2001) in a reflection on his experiences of the Soekarno period, is characterized by a “play of disjunctive discourses, separated registers of political expression”. On the one hand are “emphatic Historical Memory in Contemporary Indonesia 17 doings by emphatic personalities playing grandly to grand audiences”, while at the same time “furtive, allusive exchanges” take place behind the scenes; “[i]t was as though the country was caught between grandi- loquence and equivocation, stranded between speech styles without a practicable system of civic discourse” (Geertz 2001). ...
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