Of Self and Injustice: Autobiography and Repression in Modern Indonesia

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By C. W. Watson

Since the downfall of Soeharto in 1998 many autobiographical writings have appeared in Indonesia from the pens of those who were marginalized by his so-called New Order regime. This book examines representative autobiographies of several such individuals: two ex-political prisoners who describe themselves as Muslim Communists; two writers of the left, one a woman in senior position in the left-wing women's organization, Gerwani, and one a well-known male novelist who spent years of exile in China and Russia; two Muslim opponents of Soeharto, one an intellectual and the other a political campaigner; and finally, two collections of short autobiographies by the younger generation, one a group involved in social welfare action, the other a group of dedicated young Muslims.

The scrutiny of the texts is in all cases preceded by a brief account of the historical and cultural context of the writing of autobiographies. In the analysis of the works themselves the emphasis is on trying to represent the implicit tone of the narrative as much as its overt contents. Both general and specialist readers are consequently invited to reflect on the memories and experiences of significant participant-observers as a mode of understanding a recent period in Indonesian history.


C.W. WATSON, born 1946, teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK. He has been working in the field of Indonesian studies since 1970 and over the years has written about the history, politics and modern literature of Indonesia. His PhD in Anthropology from Cambridge University was for research entitled Kinship, Property and Inheritance in Kerinci, Central Sumatra. In 2005 he was a Visiting Professor at the School of Business and Management of ITB, the Bandung Institute of Technology. He has written an earlier book on Indonesian autobiography entitled Of Self and Nation (2000). More generally, he has also written Multiculturalism (2000).


Publication Year: 2007
254 pages, 241mm x 165mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-369-5, Paperback

NUS Press