Beginning to Remember: The Past in the Indonesian Present

Beginning to Remember: The Past in the Indonesian Present

After four years of hard work the results of a UCLA conference have been published. The volume of essays Beginning to Remember: The Past in the Indonesian Present is the result of an April 2001 conference on History and Memory in Contemporary Indonesia, sponsored by the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies and funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation.

The conference was organized by Dr. Mary Zurbuchen while she served as a Visiting Professor at UCLA, and edited while she served as Acting Chair of the Center in 2002-03.


Beginning to Remember charts Indonesia's turbulent decades of cultural repression and renewal amid the rise and fall of Suharto's New Order regime. These cross-disciplinary pieces illuminate Indonesia's current efforts to reexamine and understand its past in order to shape new civic and cultural arrangements.

In 1998, "reformasi" brought a wave of relief and euphoria. But Suharto's removal did not dispel persistent corruption, official secrecy and denial, religious and ethnic violence, and security policies leading to tragedy in East Timor, Aceh, and other regions. But the reformasi did open up new possibilities for seeing the past. What followed was a surge of discourse that challenged officially codified national history in mass media and publishing, in public policy debate, in the arts, and in popular mobilization and politics.

This volume is an exploration of some of the expressions, narratives, and interpretations of the past found in Indonesia today. The authors illustrate ways in which the dissolution of the Indonesian state's monopoly on history is now permitting new national, local, and individual accounts and representations of the past to emerge. The book covers fields from performing arts and literature to anthropology, history, and transitional justice.

The book opens with Goenawan Mohamad's dramatic poem Kali, the first publication of this important work by one of Indonesia's leading intellectuals, which has become the libretto for an international opera production. Another chapter is a personal memoir by one of Java's famous shadow-play masters, Tristuti Rachmadi, for years imprisoned under the New Order. Leading historian Anthony Reid commemorates the national struggle at the regional level, while South African lawyer Paul van Zyl compares efforts in transitional justice in Indonesia, East Timor, and South Africa.

Mary S. Zurbuchen is director for Asia and Russia programs with the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program. The contributors include Andi F. Bakti, Daniel S. Lev, Hendrik Maier, Kate McGregor, Goenawan Mohamad, Nancy L. Peluso, Tristuti Rachmadi, Anthony Reid, Geoffrey Robinson, Klaus H. Schreiner, Laurie J. Sears, Karen Strassler, Fadjar I. Thufail, Gerry van Klinken, and Paul van Zyl.

@ Singapore Press


Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations

Notes on Contributors



Historical Memory in Contemporary Indonesia - Mary S. Zurbuchen

Part One

  • My Life as a Shadow Master under Suharto - Ki Tristuti Rachmadi
  • Kali: A Libretto - Goenawan Mohamad
  • The Persistence of Evil and the Impossibility of Truth in Goenawan Mohamad's Kali - Laurie J. Sears
  • In Search of Memories: How Malay Tales Try to Shape History - Hendrik M. J. Maier

Part Two

  • Collective Memories of the Qahhar Movement - Andi F. Bakti
  • Ninjas in Narratives of Local and National Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia - Fadjar I. Thufail
  • Remembering and Forgetting War and Revolution - Anthony Reid

Part Three

  • Memory, Knowledge and Reform - Daniel S. Lev
  • Nugroho Notosusanto: The Legacy of a Historian in the Service of an Authoritarian Regime - Katharine E. McGregor
  • The Battle for History After Suharto - Gerry van Klinken

Part Four

  • Lubang Buaya: Histories of Trauma and Sites of Memory - Klaus H. Schreiner
  • Material Witnesses: Photographs and the Making of Reformasi Memory - Karen Strassler
  • Monument, Document and Mass Grave: The Politics of Representing Violence in Bali - Degung Santikarma
  • Dealing with the Past: Reflections on South Africa, East Timor and Indonesia - Paul van Zyl


Publication Date: April 2005

ISBN: Paper: 0-295-98469-4

Price: Paper: $30.00s

Subject Listing: Asian Studies

Bibliographic information: 368 pp., 6 illus., bibliog., 6 x 9 in.

Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2005