Hearing the 1965-66 Indonesian anti-communist repression: Sensory history and its possibilities

Vannessa Hearman

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    Sound forms the backbone of farm labourer Niko’s memories of the 1965-66 anti-communist repression in Indonesia, as he related above in his interview for an oral history collection, edited by fellow former political prisoner, Putu Oka Sukanta. From Southeast Sulawesi, Niko was among those persecuted following a coup attempt in Jakarta that was blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI). Half a million people were killed and hundreds of thousands imprisoned in the anti-communist purges. This chapter is a preliminary exploration of the soundscape of this period of violence. It was first motivated by my experiences of interviewing survivors of the purges, in which they related how their memories of certain sounds from their period of imprisonment were particularly potent. Episodes of dramatic social change such as revolution are unlikely to be quiet affairs. As David Hendy writes, ‘For those caught in the thick of the upheaval and violence, the experience might even be defined by noise more than anything else; what they remember, even years afterwards, is the visceral shock or disorientation of overwhelming and unceasing din, the terror or the foreboding at the danger it foretells, the sheer auditory theatre of it all’ [emphasis added]. 2 In Indonesia, the purges and the regime change they ushered in were marked with a soundscape that was frightening and long lasting, particularly for the victims.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationA Cultural History of Sound, Memory, and the Senses
    EditorsJoy Damousi, Paula Hamilton
    Place of PublicationNew York
    PublisherTaylor & Francis
    Number of pages15
    ISBN (Electronic)9781315445328
    ISBN (Print)9781138211773
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


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