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The 1965-66 Politicide in Indonesia: Toward Knowing Who Did What to Whom and Why

The 1965-66 Politicide in Indonesia: Toward Knowing Who Did What to Whom and Why

Speaker:

  • John Roosa

Audio and transcript (forthcoming) from the Southeast Asia Program seminar, "The 1965-66 Politicide in Indonesia: Toward Knowing Who Did What to Whom and Why," with John Roosa on Feb. 17, 2016.


The nationwide massacres of 1965-66 in Indonesia must have numbered in the thousands, yet historians lack detailed information on particular killings. The scholarly literature on the killings of communist party members and sympathizers typically conveys broad generalizations based on a limited range of sources. In Indonesia today, many people remain confused as to the identity of the perpetrators. Were the massacres carried out by civilians or by army personnel? Were the killings spontaneous or were they officially planned? In addressing such questions, John Roosa drew upon the latest research on the politicide and his own oral history interviews in Java and Bali. He argued that the army high command under General Suharto's leadership pushed regional and district commanders to organize the disappearances of detainees, that army officers called upon particular groups of civilians to assist them, and that the army personnel and civilians carried out the massacres in a semi-clandestine manner, ensuring that public knowledge of their dirty work would remain fragmented and confused.