Hearing but not seeing: magnifying terror in the Indonesian repression of 1965-66

Vannessa Hearman

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper presented at Conference (not in Proceedings)


In recalling the Indonesian mass killings and violence of 1965-66 that claimed some half a million lives, the sounds of the violence often constitute the sharpest memories. Following what is often dubbed a failed communist coup in Indonesia, members and sympathisers of the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI) were targeted for killing and arrest from October 1965. I argue that the shape of the Army-led repression,with its combination of media blackouts, misinformation, curfews, checkpoints and nighttime raids worked effectively in limiting the visuality of the repression. Limiting visuality magnified the state of unknowing and therefore the extent of the terror. Research and popular literature about the killings often raise the visual aspects of the aftermath of the killings, such as the bodies left in the street and in the waterways of Java for their shock value. There is however still little research on the sounds of the time and their effects on the population, such as sounds of army trucks, people marching, the rain falling and knife sharpening. In turn, I explore how sounds conditioned responses to the repression. 
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
EventSound, Memory and the Senses Conference - Melbourne
Duration: 24 Jul 201425 Jul 2014


ConferenceSound, Memory and the Senses Conference


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