Decolonising Indonesia, Past and Present

Ariel Heryanto

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In the pursuit of an “authentically Indonesian” nation-state, for decades Indonesians have denied the civil rights of fellow citizens for allegedly being less authentically Indonesian. A key to the longstanding efficacy of such exclusionary ethno-nationalism is the failure to recognise the trans-national solidarity that helped give birth to independent Indonesia. Such solidarity is best illustrated in the extraordinary case of the making in Australia of a documentary film, Indonesia Calling (1946). A starting point of this article is the proposition that Indonesia’s cultural politics of the past and its future is never free from a protracted battle over what the nation is allowed, or willing, or able to forget and remember from its past. Mere disclosure of Indonesia’s past history with its cosmopolitan features will not necessarily lead to changes for the better in contemporary Indonesia, especially if the new revelation runs counter to the interests of those in power. Nonetheless, no substantial and long-term change for the better is possible for Indonesia without serious, open, critical re-examination of the revolutionary making of the Republic, and due acknowledgment that inauthenticity, plurality and trans-national solidarity are the hallmarks of the process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-625
Number of pages19
JournalAsian Studies Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Cold War
  • colonial
  • ethno-nationalism
  • identity
  • Indonesia
  • Indonesia Calling
  • Left
  • trans-national

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