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Resistance on the National Stage

Theater and Politics in Late New Order Indonesia

Michael H. Bodden

Publication Year: 2010

Resistance on the National Stage analyzes the ways in which, between 1985 and 1998, modern theater practitioners in Indonesia contributed to a rising movement of social protest against the long-governing New Order regime of President Suharto. It examines the work of an array of theater groups and networks from Jakarta, Bandung, and Yogyakarta that pioneered new forms of theater-making and new themes that were often presented more directly and critically than previous groups had dared to do.

Michael H. Bodden looks at a wide range of case studies to show how theater contributed to and helped build the opposition. He also looks at how specific combinations of social groups created tensions and gave modern theater a special role in bridging social gaps and creating social networks that expanded the reach of the prodemocracy movement. Theater workers constructed new social networks by involving peasants, Muslim youth, industrial workers, and lower-middle-class slum dwellers in theater productions about their own lives. Such networking and resistance established theater as one significant arena in which the groundwork for the ouster of Suharto in May 1998, and the succeeding Reform era, was laid.

Resistance on the National Stage will have broad appeal, not only for scholars of contemporary Indonesian culture and theater, but also for those interested in Indonesian history and politics, as well as scholars of postcolonial theater and culture.


Published by: Ohio University Press


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-x

Though I may have authored this volume, collating much information I gathered and formulating analyses, my efforts would not have even begun had it not been for the help and companionship offered so enthusiastically and openly by many colleagues, friends, and institutions over...

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pp. 1- 21

The final decade of President Suharto’s New Order in Indonesia witnessed a highly publicized series of confrontations between the Indonesian state and a number of theater groups over performances banned by the government. These clashes began with the banning of N. Riantiarno...

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One: The Modern National Theater and the Indonesian New Order State

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pp. 22-55

During the 1990s, modern national theater practitioners in Indonesia frequently displayed a critical attitude toward society and even clashed with the Indonesian New Order state over several theater banning incidents in a dramatic series of confrontations from 1990 to 1997. Such...

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Two: Indonesian Grassroots Theater: Arena Teater, Rural Development, and the Travails of Creating a Media For the People

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pp. 56-95

One response to the growing dissatisfaction of Indonesia’s middle-classes with the Suharto government came from art theater workers in the city of Yogyakarta (also known as Jogja). This response took the form of a search for ways to make theater more relevant to larger numbers...

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Three: "Aas Tunggal" and Laughter in the Mosque: Indonesian Islamic Theater on the National Stage

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pp. 96- 130

For about three years, from mid-1988 until August 1991, Emha Ainun Nadjib and his collaborators from the Central Javanese city of Yogyakarta electrified Javanese and other Indonesian audiences with a new form of mass Islamic theater. Capitalizing on Nadjib’s fame as an Islamic orator...

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Four: Teater Sae, Teater Kubur, and Avant-Garde Performances of Urban Alienation

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pp. 131-187

At the same time that Nadjib was writing scripts critical of the Suharto regime for Teater Dinasti, composing his Lautan Jilbab poem cycle, and developing it into a popular stage performance, a very different kind of theater was taking shape among members of a young generation of theater...

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Five: The Limits of "Bahasa Indonesia" and Teater Payung Hitam's "Theater of Pain": Crisis of Representation of the Nation and Political Allegory

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pp. 188- 220

In early October 1996, Indonesia’s Directorate of the Arts (under the General Director of Culture in the Ministry of Education and Culture) initiated a national modern theater festival with the idea, according to one of the festival’s judges, of presenting “a map of Indonesian theater...

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Six: Workers' Theater and Theater About Workers in 1990s Indonesia

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pp. 221- 272

In September 1994 the Satu Merah Panggung theater group had staged Ratna Sarumpaet’s Nyanyian Marsinah: Dari Bawah Tanah (Marsinah’s Song: From Beneath the Earth) for close to capacity crowds five nights running in the Arena Theater of the Taman Ismail Marzuki (Kompas...

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Seven: Staged Openness: Theater and Censorship in Indonesia's 1990s Era of "Keterbukaan"

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pp. 273- 309

On August 16, 1990, Indonesia’s President Suharto suggested in an official speech that the nation was ready for increased political openness (keterbukaan). Less than two months later, however, the Jakarta police abruptly closed down Teater Koma’s political satire, Suksesi. The ensuing...

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pp. 310- 315

The resistance of modern national theater workers to the New Order’s power was only a part of larger social processes then in motion, yet it also represented a clear continuation and heightening of a very specific antagonism that had long existed between the independent Indonesian state...


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pp. 317- 325

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pp. 327- 332

Actor, writer, and director. Joined Arena Teater under the leadership of Yasso Winarto in 1964. Became leader of the group in 1969 when Winarto left for Jakarta. Studied communications, radio, television and film at Saint Gabriel’s College, Hatch End, London. Beginning in...


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pp. 333- 359


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pp. 361- 380


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pp. 381 - 391

E-ISBN-13: 9780896804692
Print-ISBN-13: 9780896802759

Page Count: 391
Publication Year: 2010