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  • Indonesian Student Theses on “1965”: An Overview
  • Grace Leksana (bio) and Douglas Kammen (bio)

Over the past two decades, there has been an enormous outpouring of scholarship on “1965”—a common and convenient, though oftentimes misleading, shorthand for the political events of October 1 of that year and the massive violence unleashed against the political Left over the next few years in Indonesia. Across this terrain, research by foreign scholars has been particularly prominent. This has included major monographs by Victor Fic (Anatomy of the Jakarta Coup: October 1, 1965Anatomy of the Jakarta Coup: October 1, 2005), John Roosa (Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Suharto’s Coup d’Etat in Indonesia, 2006), Vannessa Hearman (Unmarked Graves: Death and Survival in the Anti-Communist Violence in East Java, Indonesia, 2018), Geoffrey Robinson (The Killing Season: A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965–66, 2018), Jess Melvin (The Army and the Indonesian Genocide: Mechanics of Mass Murder, 2018), Saskia Wieringa and Nursyahbani Katjasungkana (Propaganda and the Genocide in Indonesia: Imagined Evil, 2020), Vincent Bevins (The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World, 2020), and John Roosa (Buried Histories: The Anticommunist Massacres of 1965–1966 in Indonesia, 2020); edited volumes by Douglas Kammen and Katharine McGregor (The Contours of Mass Violence in Indonesia, 1965–68, 2012) and Katharine McGregor, Jess Melvin, and Annie Pohlman (The Indonesian Genocide of 1965: Causes, Dynamics and Legacies, 2018); and a huge number of journal articles and book chapters. Since 1998, the output and visibility of Indonesian scholars writing on 1965 also increased dramatically, with major books by Hermawan Sulistyo (Palu Arit di Ladang Tebu, 2000), Harsutejo (G30S: Sejarah yang Digelapkan, 2003), John Roosa, Ayu Ratih, and Hilmar [End Page 45] Farid (Tahun yang Tak Pernah Berakhir, 2004), I Ngurah Suryawan (Ladang Hitam di Pulau Dewata, 2007), Baskara Wardaya (Truth Will Out, 2009), Asvi Warman Adam (Melawan Lupa, Menepis Stigma, 2006, and 1965: Orang-orang di Balik Tragedi, 2009), Amurwani Dwi Lestariningsih (Gerwani: Kisah Tapol Wanit di Kamp Plantungan, 2011), as well as a number of memoirs. Alongside these published works by scholars working both in and outside of Indonesia, there is a third stream of scholarship that, while rarely noted, is deserving of our attention: the growing number of BA, MA, and PhD theses written by students at Indonesian universities.

The proliferation of Indonesian scholarship on 1965 has not taken place in a political vacuum, of course. The end of Suharto’s New Order regime in 1998 opened the floodgates of this new scholarship, but the specter of communism and the long-defunct Communist Party of Indonesia (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI) remain alive and continue to haunt local and national politics.1 Anticommunist banners appeared in various locations in rural Java in the early 2000s. Anticommunist demonstrators have threatened gatherings of former political prisoners. And national politicians periodically have expressed outrage over the publication of books by the children of PKI members (e.g., Ribka Tjiptaning’s Aku Bangga Jadi Anak PKI, 2002). During the 2014 presidential election, supporters of former general and Suharto’s son-in-law Prabowo Subianto spread accusations that candidate Joko Widodo’s father was Chinese and that the family was affiliated with the PKI. Five years later, once again running for the presidency, Subianto charged that President Widodo had a “Boyolali mug” (tampang Boyolali), implying that Widodo was a coarse village upstart, and indirectly linking the president to a district in which the PKI enjoyed particular strength up until 1965. Soon after, an Islamic organization in Makassar conducted a sweep of the Gramedia bookstore and seized books about the PKI and communism. These may appear to be isolated incidents, but together are part of a recurrent leitmotif of military and Islamic politics in post-Suharto Indonesia. The bogeyman of communism retains its power to intimidate, and perhaps more importantly to draw lines and consolidate constituencies. It is within this context of postauthoritarian openness in the realms of research, publishing, and heightened political polarization that the proliferation of student theses about 1965 must be seen.

This review aims to survey the growth of Indonesian student theses about the mass violence...


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