Cultural Trauma and the Making of Unequal Citizenship: The Case of the 1965-66 Genocide in Indonesia

Graduate Student Workshop by Joyce Liu, National Chiao Tung University

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Thursday, October 24, 2019
1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Charles E. Young Research Library
West Electronic Class Room (WEC)

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The question that I want to address in my talk is the paradoxical relation between citizenship and democracy, and the collective distortion of the past through the politics of silence and denial. In the case of Southeast Asian countries, the frailty of the democratic system, besides frequented discussed questions such as crony capitalism, corruption, and dual or multiple juridical systems is often linked to the arbitrary statist division of citizens or differentiated citizenship status. In the post-WWII era, the so-called Cold War Era, several hot wars, large-scale massive killings and genocides, and enforced concentration camps took place in different countries. These traumatic events, I want to argue, contributed to the making of unequal citizenships in Southeast Asian countries through juridical process, and still are affecting these countries ideologically and emotionally. I shall focus on the case of the Thirtieth of September Movement of 1965 and the genocide in Indonesia. I want to discuss the ambiguous double-edged functions of documentaries or docudrama movies, in re-telling the stories, reenacting the event, documenting testimonies, archiving images, recording oral histories and taking the event as the founding trauma. This mode of reenactment could easily enhance the narrative from the victim’s point of view and at the same time legitimize the ruling regime and displace the larger truth. How to avoid this trap of a single perspective but still to seek the truth and reveal a larger reality, is my concern.

Joyce C.H. Liu is Professor of Critical Theory, Comparative Literature, Visual Studies and Cultural Studies in the Institute of Social Research and Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan. It is the program that she founded in 2002, the first graduate program of cultural studies in Taiwan, an inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary postgraduate program that addresses contemporary critical issues. She is currently the director of the cross-universities research center, International Center for Cultural Studies of the University System of Taiwan, a network system connecting four distinguished research-oriented universities in Taiwan, together with an international graduate program in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies supported by these four universities. Starting from 2018, her center has launched a 5-year project: “Conflict, Justice, Decolonization: Critical Studies of Inter-Asian Societies,” involving 5 sub-projects and 21 researchers from the network the University System of Taiwan.


Keywords: documentaries, cultural interventions, the paradox of citizenship, the crisis of democracy


Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies