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Changes and Continuities in Post-Suharto Indonesia: The Politics of the Survival of the 1965 Narrative

Meckelburg, Rebecca (2013) Changes and Continuities in Post-Suharto Indonesia: The Politics of the Survival of the 1965 Narrative. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Fifteen years after the fall of the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia, the authoritarian historical narrative about 1965 that was created by the New Order regime has been defended and reaffirmed by the post-New Order ‘democratic’ state. During the New Order, the 1965 narrative was used to justify and legitimize state sponsored violence against the PKI and other left wing nationalists that resulted in at least half a million deaths in the mid 1960s. This same narrative underpinned the political legitimacy of the newly emerging New Order state and articulated a version of national identity and nation building that was the antithesis of the previous era.

The survival of the 1965 narrative has facilitated the survival of anti-communist ideology from the New Order. It continues to underpin political legitimacy for those in power as well as provide impunity for acts of political violence and repression that are used to defend their social and political power. Anti-communist ideology continues to support a restricted notion of citizenship and national identity. Restricted notions of citizenship today significantly constrain the freedoms of civil society to engage in open discourse about the possibilities for deepening and strengthening political democracy and its institutions.

The ongoing contestation over the 1965 historical narrative indicates that history and versions of ‘the past’ are part of the dynamic of democratic politics in Indonesia. Analysis of the contestation over the 1965 authoritarian historical narrative allows us to examine the changes and continuities in concepts of national identity and citizenship, and in the categories of political ‘inclusion’ and ‘exclusion’ from the New Order authoritarian regime to the reformed democratic state that exists today.

Publication Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Management and Governance
Supervisor: Wilson, Ian
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