Surabaya, 1945-2010: Neighbourhood, State and Economy in Indonesia's City of Struggle


By Robbie Peters

EuroSEAS Humanities Book Prize 2015

Surabaya, 1945-2010 presents the recent history of one of Indonesia's great port cities as viewed from a crowded low-income neighbourhood (kampung) called Dinoyo. By following the lives of Dinoyo residents over three generations, it provides a new perspective on landmark moments in the country's modern history, including the war for independence, the destruction of the Communist Party, the petrus anti-crime campaign, neighbourhood improvement projects, the fall of the New Order and the rise of democracy, as well as more recent government campaigns to fight terrorism and promote urban renewal.

During several long periods of residence in the kampung, Robbie Peters gathered richly detailed information about the responses of its residents to the tumultuous process of political reform and economic growth. He shows how their informal economy adapted to the forces of urban change, and how their neighbourhood-based social institutions promoted a 'participative' citizenship that resisted state attempts to shape a more exclusive citizenship that restricted the rights of newcomers to the city.

Residents of urban neighbourhoods such as Kampung Dinoyo make up a substantial proportion of Indonesia's urban population and their kampungs a significant proportion of urban land, yet they rarely appear in historical accounts of the Indonesian city. Peters' account of urban life as experienced by one group of kampung residents is a unique contribution to the literature on one of Asia's largest and most complex countries.

"This is a brilliant book, a must read for anybody wanting to understand the Asian city..Peters has written what I believe is the best study of any Indonesian kampung. Few scholars have managed to do such close and complex ethnographic and oral history research - gaining the trust of people from the lowest to the highest levels of a seemingly chaotic urban society." - Lea Jellinek

“Surabaya 1945–2000 is an excellent book represented in an engaging narrative via life stories of the kampung people. It is also a book attentive to scholarship. Peters pays homage to earlier anthropological studies of Indonesian kampungs, following their paths and themes while engaging critically with their findings. Robbie continues this great tradition of studying kampung, making sense of the people’s lives and the changes they experienced, but he does it in a way that makes us aware of the politics of the city and the nation.” - Abidin Kusno

“a fascinating account of the city…an excellent, admirable book” - Freek Colombijn


Robbie Peters is an Anthropologist and Director of the Master of Development Studies Program at the University of Sydney.

Asian Studies Association of Australia: Southeast Asian Publications Series
Publication Year: 2013
272 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-644-3, Paperback

NUS Press