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When Memory Challenges History: Public Contestation of the Past in Post-Suharto Indonesia

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Serving to legitimate the power of a political regime, official history is usually radically questioned as the regime collapses. Such is the case in Indonesia since the fall of Suharto in May 1998. Yet, unlike many other countries which have experienced transitions from authoritarian or totalitarian rule to democracy, post-Suharto Indonesia is witnessing an ambivalent critique of the official history, especially regarding the "September 30, 1965 affair" (the killing of six top Army officers by a regiment of Presidential guards which brought about Suharto's rise to power). On one hand, there is a public query over who masterminded the killings; on the other hand, there are reactionary responses towards the claims of victimization among ex-political prisoners associated with the September 30,1965 movement, as they articulate their experiences of the past tragedy. This paper attempts to explore the current controversy surrounding the official history of the September 30, 1965 affair through discussions of the paradox of memory, and the relationship between memory and history.

Affiliations: 1: Southeast Asian Studies Programme National University of Singapore


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