Conference: The 1965 Coup in Indonesia: Questions of Representation 50 Years Later

The 1965 Coup in Indonesia: Questions of Representation 50 Years Later

Conference date: Oct. 21-22, 2015

Department of English Letters, English Education, and the Graduate Program of English Language Studies, Universitas Sanata Dharma, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in cooperation with Kritika Kultura, the international refereed journal of language, literary, and cultural studies of the Department of English, Ateneo de Manila University

The deadline to submit an abstract is Aug. 15, 2015.

Please find CFP HERE



In 1965, one of the worst massacres of the 20th century occurred in Indonesia. At least 500,000 citizens were murdered without trial following what has been portrayed in the country’s “official” history as an abortive leftist coup. The political dissidents were called by the Army “Gestapu” (Gerakan September TigapuluhT [The Movement of the 30th September]) after the Nazi secret police.

Observers have noted that the cracking down of any form of resistance to the regime became a systematic political strategy of the “New Order,” a term used by Suharto to refer to his regime, and henceforth also used to refer to the years 1965-1998 in which Suharto ruled. With “Pancasila” as the national ideology, the New Order is said to have been propped up by widespread proliferation of representations of the “coup” in the regime’s historical accounts, mainstream historiography, and in the major media such as films, demonizing and blaming the victims themselves for the tragic event.


The 1965 Coup, the Writers and Artists, and the New Order

Among those who felt victimized were famous artists and writers allegedly associated with the Indonesian Communist Party, such as the members of the Lekra (Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat [Institute of People’s Culture]) who had been known, for many years, for producing socially committed literature and art which were dedicated to the country’s social transformation. Members were arrested and forbidden from producing literary and artistic works. Since then, writers and artists associated with the assumptions, values and meanings of liberal humanism—instead of principles clearly in the service of social change that guided the Institute of People’s Culture—like the members of the Manikebu (Manifes Kebudayaan [Cultural Manifesto]), have been observed to have dominated the artistic and literary scene in Indonesia.

It has been said that literature potentially gives voice to the voiceless and is capable of representing the silenced subaltern, despite efforts by a dominant power to ensure submission and subordination of its citizens. The extent to which Indonesian literature in the New Order era was able to live up to expectations may be arguable, but beyond this question, contemporary literary and cultural theory and practice allow for the laying bare of the political dimension of literature so that the ideological character of seemingly innocent works could come to the fore or that an apparently political text could be shown to owe its power to the very artistic design at its core. In this way, the silenced texts are able to “speak.”


But what have they said?

Fifty years after the tragedy and 17 years after the demise of the New Order, works which give some voice to the victims of the tragedy are now relatively free to circulate. This does not mean, however, that the discourse demonizing so-called dissenting views like communism is gone. It has been noted, for example, that the latest Indonesian presidential race witnessed how this discourse is still very much played out in the electoral rhetoric of Indonesia, as in other countries. Be that as it may, the democratic and liberal humanist credentials of the dominant power—a hegemony which has repressed alternative histories and excluded dissenting perspectives—can now be taken into account and called into question.


Conference Focus

This conference focuses on the question of how the events of 1965 have been represented during the Suharto regime and after its collapse. We invite and encourage the submission of papers from Indonesia and other countries, dealing specifically with the Indonesian case, as well as by extension, cases from Southeast Asia. The conference also seeks papers that discuss similar ideological, cultural and political conflicts involving local leftist movements in Southeast Asia in order to see how they have been represented, silenced or questioned not only in their national literatures but also in films, pop culture, performing arts and other cultural forms.


Topic Areas for the Sessions

Literary and artistic representations of the events of 1965-1966

Literary and artistic representations of ideological conflicts and repression

State censorship in cultural production and mass media

Artists, writers and political imprisonment

Films before and after the New Order

The events of 1965 in social and new media

Popular and protest music, community theater and other cultural forms during the New Order era

Art, memory and historical trauma in the wake of the 1965 coup and the New Order era

Cultural forms of resistance before, during and/or after the New Order (e.g., Pramoedya, Riantiarno)

Historical amnesia and the educational system

The political role played by the school teachers preceding the New Order era

Suharto’s legacy and the communist stigma

Writing from the margins

Literary theory and the reading of the events of 1965

Translation and the question of representations


Guidelines for Submitting Abstract

Write your 150-word abstract; provide a title; indicate your name, title/rank, name of department and university.

Indicate under what particular topic area or alternative topic areas your abstract is being submitted.

Submit your abstract no later than Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015.

Indicate any audio-visual equipment or logistical requirements you might need for your presentation at the conference.

Submit your 150-word abstract to the Organizing Committee c/o (cc and

Your proposal’s acceptance status will be sent by Sept. 1, 2015.

Full paper has to be sent by Sept. 30, 2015.