Renewing the New Order?: Public History in Indonesia

Paul Ashton, Kresno Brahmantyo, Jaya Keaney

Abstract

After the fall of the Suharto regime in 1988, public debates over the nature of history proliferated. While focusing on a number of key national events, most notably the 1965 coup and the killing of over half-a-million people, these debates have raised critical issues over the role or potential role of public history in contemporary Indonesian society. Questions of historical authority are paramount as Indonesian historians, public intellectuals and politicians struggle with a deeply entrenched historical paradigm and narratives of the old ‘New Order’ which continues to inform history in schools, cultural institutions, the media, literature, personal narratives, public rituals and the academy. This paradigm was based on an unquestioning acceptance of official accounts of the past. The demise of the New Order has left a historiographical vacuum which individuals and groups from a broad range of perspectives are trying to fill. Some, like Professor Azumardi Aza, are seeking to straddle the divide between professional and public history. Memory has emerged as a key issue in public debates, attempts have been made at reconciliation between the left and the right, though these faltered, and turf wars have broken out between historians and novelists such as Pramoedya Anata Toer. Women continue to remain relegated to a 'macabre footnote' in Indonesian public history. History in Indonesia is at a crossroads. One road could lead to a more democratic form of public or people’s history; the other to a modified version of the New Order history.

Keywords

Public History, Memorials, Nationalism, Gerwani

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