The Contours of Mass Violence in Indonesia: 1965-1968


Edited by Douglas Kammen and Katharine McGregor

The violence directed against the political left in Indonesia from 1965 until 1968 has been the subject of intense speculation. The large number of deaths, brutal interrogations, as well as rape, torture, short- and long-term detention and on-going discrimination inflicted on hundreds of thousands of people make this a compelling topic. However, political sensitivities within Indonesia and a dearth of evidence made serious research on the topic extremely difficult under the New Order regime.

The Contours of Mass Violence in Indonesia presents case studies from diverse locations throughout the Indonesian archipelago. The accounts revolve around the impact and interpretations of the September 30th Movement and its aftermath; the roles of military and civilian groups in fomenting and perpetrating violence; short- and long-term detention; and the legacies of the assault on the political Left. Although events unfolded differently in various parts of the country, the violence amounted to a counter-revolution intended to curtail the mass mobilization and popular participation unleashed by the national revolution some twenty years earlier. The goal was to destroy the social bases of President Sukarno’s left-leaning Guided Democracy, and to establish a military regime that was authoritarian and pro-Western.

Students of Indonesia will learn much from the accounts in this volume, but the discussion will also benefit scholars concerned with the dynamics of mass violence, the Cold War, regime change and counter-revolution.

"The scale of the 1965-1968 killings is astounding. It is like a giant jigsaw puzzle that has thousands of pieces and only a small proportion of those pieces have so far been pieced together. This volume has contributed more than a fair share to the jigsaw-solving efforts, and in so doing continues the momentum unleashed since the demise of the New Order regime." - Rommel Curaming

"...considered responses to questions such as when did the violence erupt, which parties were involved in which regions, why the death toll in a particular area was higher than the numbers of fatalities recorded in other locations, and whether there was any connection between the central government and the cases of violence emerging in various regions." - Asvi Warman Adam, The Jakarta Post

“Douglas Kammen and Katharine McGregor have edited a truly insightful volume that outlines contours of mass violence in Indonesia during the 1960s. The volume studies many forms of violence against the Leftists and many clashes between various factions of the right-wing coalition. It takes into account contemporary issues of human rights protection and covers current problems of the democratization process.”-Anton Zakharov

Douglas Kammen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore.

Katharine McGregor is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne.

Asian Studies Association of Australia: Southeast Asian Publications Series
Publication Year: 2012
320 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-616-0, Paperback

NUS Press