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, Prof. Roosa will draw upon the latest research on the politicide and his own oral history interviews in Java and Bali. He will argue 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.
John Roosa has been researching the mysterious events of 1965-66 for the past fifteen years. His book Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Suharto's Coup d'État in Indonesia (2006) was called "the leading book about the 1965 massacres" by the New York Times. The book that he is currently writing presents case studies of specific massacres and explores the difficulties of interpreting memories of violence.