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International Conference Report – Reconciling Indonesian History With 1965: Facts, Rumors & Stigma


From the 10th to the 12th November 2016 the Goethe University held an international conference titled « Reconciling Indonesian History with 1965: Facts, Rumours and Stigma » at Campus Westend, Frankfurt, Germany. The conference reflected upon the mass-killings of alleged communist and PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia) sympathizers in an approach to examine historical facts (or myths) and events.

On the first conference day several presentations (combined into three panels) discussed the historical facts surrounding the PKI as well as other leftist organizations and the developments that led to the killings of 1965. The following day, presenters gave a glimpse on the contestation of the land reform program at that time and its significance for the escalation of the conflict in certain regions. Furthermore, the use of film for propaganda purposes during the Orde Baru was compared to the appearance of more recent popular culture. In panel 6 and 7 of the second day, participants presented contemporary approaches of reconciling the past and fostering alternative narratives among Indonesia’s youth. The third and last day of the conference was dedicated to a comparative perspective with cases of violent outbreaks in Germany, Cambodia and France. Discussions and presentations on that day provided diverse reflections on how countries deal with the memory of such events in their national history.

The following presents a selection of short reports on presentations held during the conference, written by Elisa Imanuwarta, Anna-Lena Brosell, Ecie Linasari, Dennis Pohl and Fynn-Niklas Franke.


Title: Reconciliation, Repression and Resistance: Coming to Terms with the Past in Indonesia

Presenter: Dr. Baskara Tulus Wardaya, SJ

In the first part of his presentation, Dr. Wardaya gave an overview over the public discourse of 1965 in a post-New Order setting and the repression against civic reconciliation approaches. In the second half, he presented examples of resistance towards such attempts that try to hinder the process of coming to terms with the past in Indonesia.

6v2a5183Mentioning certain hope-inspiring events after 1998, such as the consent for the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) by the government in 2004 and the investigations conducted by an inquiry team from the Komnas HAM starting in 2008 until 2012, Dr. Wardaya reminded the audience that despite important institutional reforms and democratic openings, changes have been superficial with the core structure of power politics remaining unchanged.

According to him, an indication can be found in several events that occurred throughout the Reformasi era: The repeal of the law to establish the TRC in 2006, attacks on film screenings tackling the issue of 1965, such as The Act of Killing or The Look of Silence (2012-2014) and several attacks on other events in Bukit Tinggi and Solo (February 2015), Salatiga (August, October 2015) and Ubud (October 2015), to just mention a few.

Alongside these repressive actions carried out by anti-communists groups and often backed by local authorities, some forms of resistance to promote reconciliation can be found in public forums and discussions. Examples encounter the meeting between former victims and local government officials in Palu (Central Sulawesi) initiated by the organisation SKP HAM that eventually let to an official apology by the mayor of the city in March 2012. Additionally, a number of organizations were established with the agenda to reconcile victims and perpetrators of 1965. Among them are organizations such as SekBer ’65 (Sekretariat Bersama 1965) in Solo, KKPK (Koalisi Keadilan dan Pengungkapan Kebenaran) in Jakarta and Taman ’65 in Denpasar.

6v2a5032Apart from that, the film screenings of The Act of Killing in more than 400 places can be seen as a huge success for the spread of alternative narratives, even though some of them have been attacked and dissolved. The production of other films, such as “Pulau Buruh Tanah Air Betah”, is a good example for forms of resistance against all the pressures from anti-communist groups in Indonesia. Dr. Wardaya is of the opinion that popular art is thus an important tool to connect with the young generations and make them aware of the country’s dark past.

In a more recent step, a governmental backed Symposium on the 1965 issue was held in Jakarta in April 2016, with the attendance of several high officials. This event posed the climax after the previous forms of resistance.

“There have been relentless efforts to overcome the challenges and to urge the nation to discover and acknowledge the truth about the past wrongdoings”, Dr. Wardaya summed up his presentation. However, according to him, the struggle for Indonesia’s national reconciliation has still a very long way to go.


Title: “The Inventory of Loss“ – The Post 1965 Generation and Alternative Narrations

Presenter: Anett Keller

6v2a5221By referring to the Indonesian states’ lack of willingness to deal with the state-sponsored violence in 1965, Keller points out that international media often misinterpret this fact as a general ignorance towards this dark part of their history within the Indonesian society. International responses on „The Act of Killing“ and novels like Laksmi Pamuntjaks „Amba“, which was presented as part of the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2015, support her statement. Anett Keller has concerns that the high level of attention for these couple of works lead to the wrong inference that the extent of rehabilitation is only limited to these publications. By concentrating only on isolated pieces of work, she laments that the work of earlier authors working on the 65 killings are currently neglected by non-Indonesian media.

By relating to her own experiences during recent years she spent in Indonesia, she offers us a different perspective contrary to the false impression of western media. From her point of view the scale of social awareness towards this part of Indonesian history has increased during recent years. For example, a great number of initiatives have been founded, though their range is only limited to Indonesia.

This lack of audience outside Indonesia was a major motivator for Anett Keller to publish her book „Indonesien 1965ff“ in 2015, which besides academic articles on different aspects of 1965 and its impact until today, also includes contemporary witness reports. Moreover, Keller introduces a sample of social initiatives and presents selected artwork by contemporary artists in her book.

6v2a5005Falling back on earlier mentioned initiatives, Keller wants to raise awareness about certain initiatives driven by the so-called “third generation“ activists who were born in the late 1970s or 80s and therefore did not experience the 65 events themselves. These initiatives are building the groundwork for a new framework for dealing with this part of Indonesia‘s past in a more attractive way for younger generations. One way in which they achieve this purpose is by distributing posters online free of charge, which express support for political education, campaigns or demonstrations. Especially „Komunitas Taman 65“ attracts attention by conducting open group discussions with survivors accompanied by events like film screenings and concerts.

These initiatives are struggling because the current profit-oriented government tends to refuse endorsement for initiatives, which are putting Indonesia in a bad light and could have negative consequences for Indonesia‘s tourism.

After introducing a couple of other initiatives, Keller arrives at the conclusion that connecting historic topics with current pop-culture is a conducive and an often-used method to attract a younger audience. Moreover, Keller expresses her desire to re-shape the Indonesian cultural landscape by changing the society‘s view on their history.


Title: Gerwani, religion and morality

Presenter: Prof. Saskia Wieringa

6v2a5001In her presentation, Prof. Saskia Wieringa shed some light on the effects of 1965 incident on the women organization Gerwani.

After the G30S incident members of Gerwani were accused of being affiliated with the communist party PKI and mutilating as well as sexually harassing the generals who were killed. Also, stories were circulated that they supposedly danced the promiscuous “Dance of the Fragrant Flowers” at Lubang Buaya, the place where the generals were killed.

Based on these accusations women who were part of Gerwani were imprisoned, slandered and stigmatized during the following decades. According to Prof. Wieringa this sexualized image of the Gerwani women became part of the new order regime’s propaganda. Even though these accusations proofed to be incorrect, they were eventually used to destroy the organization.

However, Prof. Wieringa highlighted that in reality, Gerwani’s objectives were among others promoting political rights of women, equality and education. With regards to sexuality, they rejected prostitution, polygamy and forced marriage which strongly contradicts what they were accused of by the Soeharto regime.

img_0865Therefore, it was argued that this sexualisation and demonization of Gerwani was used to defame the organization and suppress the political agency of women. Eventually, Prof. Wieringa pointed out that this is not limited to the defamation directly following the 1965 events, but these sexual politics continue until the present.


Title : How Media Legalized Repressive Action Against Lekra

Presenter : Truly Hitosoro

Truly Hitosoro is an independent researcher and lives now in France. She studied penology and concerns in restorative justice.

Her topic was about The Lekra’s Case: A Social Construction of Hate Through Media. Truly Hitosoro discussed stereotypes rumors and stigma which have been circulating for more than 50 years about leftist ideologies in Indonesia. She focused on the question why the authorities at that time find it interesting to blamed a cultural organization (Lekra) affiliated to the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Furthermore, she explained about how social construction by media about labeling would affect the readers, also how the political or military predominance controlled the public opinion.

6v2a5024In this case, she described how the articles published in the military newspapers Angkatan Bersenjata and Berita Yudha influenced the public opinion. The readers thought and believed that the communist party PKI and the leftwing organization Lekra have participated in the attempted coup September 1965. After the attempted coup, some Lekra’s members were arrested, interrogated, tortured, imprisoned, murdered or exiled.

After the abortive coup in October 1965, many writers and journalists were arrested on suspicion of being communists. Many of those people were not a member of the PKI itself but their membership of organizations closely associated with the PKI. They were writers and poets, members of Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat (Lekra). Some of them were working on newspapers such as the Communist Party newspaper Harian Rakyat. Then Lekra was closely associated with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) because many of its artists were employed to design posters for the PKI and other organizations at the time of elections and congresses.

In the process of the coup October 1965, six army general were killed. The PKI then accused having been involved in the coup and then followed massive arrests. It is true that some of the founders of Lekra were members of PKI, however, not all of Lekra’s members were communists. People who were in some way connected with the PKI or one of its associated leftwing organization were held without charge or trial as political prisoners for some days to more than 10 years.

img-20161113-wa0002The military daily, Berita Yudha has written that the government had found the important documents regarding the coup kept by Lekra and Angkatan Bersenjata editorially state that the coup attempt had been masterminded by PKI. Both newspapers were military newspapers and those newspapers were only two permitted sources to publish after the attempted coup. The next few days rumors were circulated about how the generals had been tortured and their sexual organs mutilated by members of the PKI women’s organization, Gerwani. From 1-6th October 1965, Angkatan Bersenjata and Berita Yudha newspaper got the exclusive rights to cover the attempted coup story. Angkatan Bersenjata and Berita Yudha Newspaper’s articles influenced the reader’s emotions. In 1965, in Indonesia newspaper was a powerful tool for spreading information and to influence the people mindset and it worked. The Indonesian military newspapers were influencing, guiding the readers in direction and then an opinion can actually be accomplished through control and the use of authority.


Title: The Indonesian Left: Stigmatization on Students Movements during New Order

Presenter: Yerry Wirawan

6v2a5189In his presentation about student movements during New Order, Yerry Wirawan wanted to call attention to two significant aspects. First, he described the development of political awareness among the Indonesian students after the New Order was established. Secondly, the presenter made clear that during this time the government always had the control over the political action of the student movements. The resistance of the students towards political regulations prompted the Indonesian government to stigmatize them as communists or rather as PKI members. Nevertheless, student organisations succeed to protest.

In order to understand this historical course better, Yerry Wirawan gave an overview about various political student movements that were formed during the New Order. Before 1966, most of the Indonesian students had no great interest in political affairs. However, this fact changed as KAMI (Kesatuan Aksi Mahasiswa Indonesia) was formed by a group of University Indonesia students in February 1966. KAMI considered itself as an anti-leftist movement. KAMI organized demonstrations against the policy of Soekarno, which marked the first moment Indonesian students called themselves Angkatan 66.

In the following years after the New Order was established, the number of student protests concerning different issues increased. To list some of them, the protest against TMII (Taman Mini Indonesia Indah) in 1973, as well as the protest against the Japanese predominance in the Indonesian economy in 1974. In consideration of the upcoming riots in the country, the New Order government blamed the students of being primarily responsible for these tensions. They were worry that the student demonstrations could change the public opinion about their ruling. In regard to the next election in 1977, the government banned the political activity on campus and announced NKK (Normalisasi Kehidupan Kampus).

According to Wirawan, the period of the 1980s indicated an increase of political awareness by the Indonesian youths. Particularly because of some personal involvements in terms of land conflicts, which were caused by the government’s land expansion program. In this context, many students joined rural movements to fight for the right of the rural people.

6v2a5202In 1994, the Perhimpunan Rakyat Demokratik (PRD) was formed by students, workers and artists organisations. Eventually, in 1996 the PRD became a new political party. However, in the same year, some PRD members were arrested or killed because the government again accused the students of instigating riots among the Indonesian people.

Yerry Wirawan comes to the conclusion that the Indonesian government always was interested in spreading rumors and myths about political student activists. This approach made it also easier for the government to keep control on campus because of the exposure of some students and their supposed activities. On the other hand, the political awareness of students was mostly shaped in times when the government tried to intervene in political student groups. This continuous reaction by the students shows also an interesting respond on communist stigma.


Photo Credit (black/white pictures): Stéphane Roland

Foto Rückblick SOA-Weihnachtsfeier 2016

Am 16. Dezember 2016 feierten die Studierenden, Lehrenden und FreundInnen der Abteilung Sprachen und Kulturen Südostasiens ihre alljährliche Weihnachtsfeier. Hier einpaar Eindrücke und Erinnerungen:


Photo Credit: Vanessa Sukimin

Invitation – International Workshop on “Orality, Performance and Diaspora Studies” – 9-10 December 2016 in Hamburg, Germany

The 2-day international workshop titled “Performing Traditions – Traveling Narratives – Living the Diaspora” will be set in the Asien-Afrika-Institut, a unique and modern study environment for future scholars in the field of Area Studies. The workshop is jointly organized by the department of Southeast Asian Studies and department of African and Ethiopian Studies of the Universität Hamburg and supported by the Hamburgische Wissenschaftliche Stiftung (HWS)


Website of the Workshop:

9.12.2016 (Friday) – Day 1 @ ESA 1 (Main Building), Lecture Hall J
10.12.2016 (Saturday) – Day 2 @ ESA 1 (East Wing), Room 221

For the complete PROGRAM visit:

REGISTER now via:

Prof. Peter Wasamba (Univeraity of Nairobi): “Orality, Fieldwork and Textual Production in the 21st Century”.
Dr. Aone van Engelenhoven (Leiden University): “Mending Torn Stories Creating a Narrative Identity in the Moluccan Exile Community in The Netherlands”

Saliou Cissokho (Kora player & narrator – epic Mande narrations)
Hasina Samoelinanja (Kabary performer – Madagascan orature)
Hasan Hüseyin Sarı, Benjamin Stueck, Malte Stueck (Alevi music performers – Turkish Aşık tradition)

The workshop carries the TITLE “Performing Traditions, Travelling Narratives and Living the Diaspora”:

1. Performing traditions: narratives and other types of texts in oral traditions often are stylized in certain ways and performed before an audience most frequently in accompaniment with musical instruments. These performances comprise audio-visual elements and will affect the audience in a variety of ways which will facilitate a successful transfer of culturally relevant knowledge.

2. Travelling narratives: texts and travels are intimately related – storytellers are often itinerant so that they can distribute their knowledge among a larger audience, people bring their stories with them on their voyages in search of safety, narratives frequently deal with real or imaginary voyages that are important for the cultural identity of the people, and stories travel different media that may preserve, disseminate or amplify them.

3. Living the Diaspora: narratives and traditions may be a way to connect the people who are or have been on a journey from their homelands with the lands and people of origin. These stories may re-create an idealized image of the homeland and may also create its own audience in the diaspora.

We are looking forward to welcome you here at the Universität Hamburg

Foto-Rückblick +++ SOA-Konferenz in Hamburg & Vereinsgründung

Die Hamburger Gesellschaft für Austronesistik gratuliert den Teilnehmern und Veranstaltern der 1. Studentischen Südostasien-Konferenz vom 5. November 2016 in Hamburg zur erfolgreichen Gründung eines neuen Vereins als Kooperationsbund für Studierende der Südostasienwissenschaften!

Nach einer intensiven und bereichernden Konferenz mit Präsentationen von insgesamt 27 Bachelor-, Master- und Promotionsstudierenden, sowie zwei Keynote-Rednern, in drei parallel stattfindenden Panels, wurde am Sonntag den 6.11.2016 die Satzung des Vereins “Studentische Südostasien-Konferenz” unterzeichnet. Diese Beschlussfassung setzt den Start für eine intensive Zusammenarbeit der Studierendenschaft der Südostasienwissenschaften und hoffentlich vieler weiterer Konferenzen in den kommenden Jahren.

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Mehr Fotos und Infos auf:

Copyright-Hinweis: Die Urheberrechte aller Fotos liegen bei


Am 17. Dezember 2016 wird der vierte “Heimaten” Abend im Jungen Schauspielhaus stattfinden! Dieses Mal mit dem großartigen Kabary-Redner Hasina Samoelinanja aus Madagaskar!

Das Junge SchauSpielHaus Hamburg veranstaltet momentan eine monatliche Reihe zum Thema “Heimaten”! Damit soll das Verständnis dieses Begriffs in unserer Gesellschaft beleuchtet und dessen Relevanz zur Diskussion gebracht werden. Hierzu sind an zehn Abenden Gäste mit unterschiedlichen Blickwinkeln eingeladen.

“Aktives „heimaten“ ist dabei der Weg und das Ziel der Reihe, die im besten Fall zu einem Stück gelebte Utopie eines neuen und interkulturellen Zusammenlebens wird.”

Wir sind froh euch informieren zu dürfen, dass Hasiniaina Nomenjanahary Samoelinanja, den wir bereits im Jahr 2014 an unser Asien-Afrika-Institut einladen konnten, am vierten Abend (17.12.16) im Jungen Schauspielhaus einer Performance abgeben wird!

Link zur Veranstaltung

Anna-Lena presenting at Yale University

Some time ago one of our MA students, Anna-Lena Brosell, sent in an abstract for a conference, got selected and secured funding to make the presentation at Yale University, New Haven in the US. Below you can read about her experiences at the conference:



14th Northeastern Conference on Indonesia

Yale University, New Haven, USA

Vom 12.4.2016 bis zum 19.4.2016 hatte ich die Gelegenheit in die USA zu reisen, um die vorläufigen Ergebnisse meiner Masterarbeit bei der „14th Northeastern Conference on Indonesia“ an der Yale Universität zu präsentieren. Der Vortrag stützte sich auf Daten meiner Feldforschung über Bildungsmöglichkeiten indonesischer Arbeitsmigrantinnen in Singapur, die ich während eines Auslandspraktikums dort sammeln konnte.

Die Veranstaltung unterteilte sich in den YIF Spring Dialogue am Freitag, den 15.4.2016 und die Konferenz am Samstag, den 16.4.2016. Der Spring Dialogue bestand aus zwei Kurzvorträgen mit anschließender Diskussion. Insbesondere der Vortrag über Herausforderungen im Umweltschutz hat mir sehr gut gefallen, da ich in meinem zweiten Masterstudiengang einen Schwerpunkt auf Nachhaltigkeit gelegt habe. Außerdem habe im letzten Jahr ein Praktikum in der CSR Abteilung der Allianz in Kuala Lumpur absolviert, in dem Nachhaltigkeit und Klimaschutz ebenfalls eine große Rolle spielten und auch in meinem Südostasienkundestudium an der Universität Hamburg konnte ich mich mit Themen wie Palmöl und „haze“ beschäftigen. Aus diesem Grund waren der Kurzvortrag, die anschließende Diskussion und der abschließende Kurzfilm ganz besonders spannend für mich.

Am Abend nach dem Spring Dialogue gab es ein gemeinsames Abendessen mit dem Organisationsteam. Dort hatte ich die Möglichkeit die anderen Vortragenden kennenzulernen, Kontaktdaten auszutauschen und mich über Südostasienkundeprogramme an anderen Universitäten zu informieren. Besonders gut hat mir gefallen, Teilnehmer aus so vielen verschiedenen Ländern, wie Indonesien, Singapur, Australien und den Vereinigten Staaten, kennenzulernen und mit einigen von ihnen bin ich immer noch in Kontakt.

Die Northeastern Conference on Indonesia fand am Samstag statt. Sie bestand aus zwei Panels mit jeweils 3 Vortragenden und einer anschließenden 30 minütigen Diskussionsrunde, sowie zwei Präsentationen von Professoren. Meine Präsentation zum Thema „Highly skilled low-skilled workers: Questioning the image of Indonesian female domestic workers“ verlief glücklicherweise sehr gut.  Es gab viele interessierte Fragen während der Diskussionsrunde und auch im Anschluss habe ich mich mit anderen Konferenzteilnehmern zu dem Thema austauschen können. Zusätzlich bekam ich Anregungen, auf welche Aspekte ich in meiner Masterarbeit noch mehr eingehen könnte.

Im Laufe des Tages hörte ich sehr viele spannende Vorträge, die sich zum Beispiel mit der Rolle von Politikerinnen in Aceh oder der Reaktion der indonesischen Regierung auf UN Konventionen beschäftigten. Besonders gut hat mir der Vortrag von Prof. Saskia Wieringa gefallen, der von indonesischen Frauenorganisationen handelte und sie auf Berichte von ehemaligen Gerwani Mitgliedern einging – ein weiteres Thema, das mich bereits in meinem Studium beschäftigt hat.

Insgesamt war die Konferenzteilnahme ein tolles Erlebnis und ich möchte mich bei all denen bedanken, die mich bei diesem Vorhaben unterstützt haben. Dazu gehören insbesondere die Universität Hamburg (Abteilung für Forschung und Wissenschaftsförderung, Arbeitsbereich Stiftungen und Körperschaftsvermögen) für ihre großzügige finanzielle Unterstützung, sowie Prof. Jan van der Putten und Ariane Grubauer für ihr fachliches Feedback.


Sports & Culture: Sepak Takraw

On 28th May 2016 in Asia-Africa Institute building at Universität Hamburg, Hamburger Gesellaschaft für Austronesistik (HGA) hosted delegations from Universiti Putra Malaysia. The delegations have performed Sepak Takraw, or kick volleyball originated from Southeast Asia.


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For complete rules of the game, please see

About Sepak Takraw, please see

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