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The Dance That Makes You Vanish

Cultural Reconstruction in Post-Genocide Indonesia

Rachmi Diyah Larasati

Publication Year: 2013

Indonesian court dance, a purportedly pure and untouched tradition, is famed throughout the world for its sublime calm and stillness. Yet this unyieldingly peaceful surface conceals a time of political repression and mass killing. Between 1965 and 1966, some one million Indonesians—including a large percentage of the country’s musicians, artists, and dancers—were killed, arrested, or disappeared as Suharto established a virtual dictatorship that ruled for the next thirty years.

In The Dance That Makes You Vanish, an examination of the relationship between female dancers and the Indonesian state since 1965, Rachmi Diyah Larasati elucidates the Suharto regime’s dual-edged strategy: persecuting and killing performers perceived as communist or left leaning while simultaneously producing and deploying “replicas”—new bodies trained to standardize and unify the “unruly” movements and voices of those vanished—as idealized representatives of Indonesia’s cultural elegance and composure in bowing to autocratic rule. Analyzing this history, Larasati shows how the Suharto regime’s obsessive attempts to control and harness Indonesian dance for its own political ends have functioned as both smoke screen and smoke signal, inadvertently drawing attention to the site of state violence and criminality by constantly pointing out the “perfection” of the mask that covers it.

Reflecting on her own experiences as an Indonesian national troupe dancer from a family of persecuted female dancers and activists, Larasati brings to life a powerful, multifaceted investigation of the pervasive use of culture as a vehicle for state repression and the global mass-marketing of national identity.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Difference Incorporated


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This book has been a long time in coming and would not have been possible without the support of the community of Indonesian scholars and activists, feminist scholars, and former political prisoners in Indonesia: many invisible bodies—in particular, members of the women’s movement in Indonesia—who have been forgotten or dishonored, ...

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Introduction: Dancing on the Mass Grave

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pp. xiii-xxii

In some sense, this book is a response to the experiences of my childhood and of my later life as a performer and young scholar, as infused with my inheritance of both a powerful dance practice and a well-hidden yet horrifying political identity. As I attempt to theorize my own history and that of the millions of others who were targeted and persecuted ...

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Chapter 1: To Remember Differently: Paradoxical Statehood and Preserved Value

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pp. 1-30

I read these words in a post-performance discussion during a 2005 event at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), one part of a larger celebration of global performance, entitled “WAC [World Arts and Cultures] Is Back.” Perhaps, without obvious explanation, I was hoping to capture the urgency of the potential for different cultural narratives ...

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Chapter 2: What is Left: The Fabricated and the Illicit

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pp. 31-60

This quotation is the “confession” of Saina, a seventeen-year-old identified by a military newspaper in 1965 as a member of Gerwani (the acronym for “Gerakan Wanita Indonesia,” or “Indonesian Women’s Movement”), a progressive women’s association that was later banned by Suharto. ...

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Chapter 3: Historicizing Violence: Memory and the Transmission of the Aesthetic

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pp. 61-104

In Where Memory Dwells, Macarena Gómez-Barris suggests that those most affected by the legacies of dictatorship continue to live with the presence of violence in their bodies, in their daily lives, and in the identities they pass down to younger generations.1 ...

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Chapter 4: Staging Alliances: Cambodia as Cultural Mirror

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pp. 105-128

In this chapter, I begin with an extended account of my own travels to Cambodia. My research there has allowed me to form a comparative analysis of participation in cultural production and the relationship of aesthetic projects to the construction of nation-state identity. ...

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Chapter 5: Violence and Mobility: Autoethnography of Coming and Going

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pp. 129-164

In this chapter, I reflect on the fraught, liminal nature of trying to follow an increasingly critical, politicized line of discourse and thought while continuing to reap the benefits of civil service to an authoritarian state (and those of scholarship and performance within the often-rigid Western academic and arts establishments). ...


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pp. 165-186


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pp. 187-196

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About the Author

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pp. 220-221

Rachmi Diyah Larasati is assistant professor of cultural theory, critical studies, and dance history in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota, where she holds an affiliate position in the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies.

E-ISBN-13: 9781452939506
E-ISBN-10: 1452939500
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816679942

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Difference Incorporated