Indonesia's Genocide: New Perspectives 55 Years On

October 07, 2020

More than half a century later, our knowledge about the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in Indonesia in 1965-1966 remains imprecise. In this seminar, the authors of two important new books discuss their findings which move beyond previously abstract and inaccurate understandings about this event. John Roosa, professor of history at the University of British Columbia, has just published "Buried Histories", and Taomo Zhou, humanities professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, has written "Migration in the Time of Revolution". Roosa and Zhou's conversation explores: Who were the perpetrators and who bears responsibility? Is the word genocide apt, and was there a broader anti-Chinese undercurrent to the violence? How did the mass violence transform Indonesian society in terms of ethnic relations, economic development, and the country’s position in the world? By contextualizing the 1965-1966 mass violence in Indonesia in the larger global Cold War, this seminar seeks to bring a new understanding of the increasingly polarized politics we are experiencing today.

This event was moderated by Margaret Scott, a NYSEAN co-founder and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at NYU Wagner.

About the speakers:

Taomo Zhou is an Assistant Professor of History at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, specializing in modern Chinese and Southeast Asian history. Taomo received her B.A. from Peking University and Waseda University, M. Sc. with Distinction from the London School of Economics and Ph.D. in History from Cornell University. Her writings have appeared in publications such as The China Quarterly, The Critical Asian Studies, the journal Indonesia, and The SAGE Handbook of Contemporary China. Taomo’s first book, Migration in the Time of Revolution: China, Indonesia and the Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2019), examines how two of the world’s most populous countries interacted between 1945 and 1967, when the concept of citizenship was contested, and the boundaries of political mobilization were blurred. Taomo is working on a new research project on Shenzhen—the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of China—and its connections with the Export Processing Zones (EPZ) and free ports across Southeast Asia. This research is funded by a Tier 1 grant from the Ministry of Education as well as the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, NTU.

John Roosa has spent the last twenty years researching and writing about the events of 1965-66 in Indonesia. Among the results of this work of historical clarification are three books: The Year that Never Ended [in Indonesian] (2004), about the experiences of the political prisoners and their families; Pretext for Mass Murder (2006), about the event that became the trigger for the army to launch its campaign against the Communist Party; and Buried Histories (2020), about the massacres and disappearances that were part of that campaign. He is an Associate Professor in the History Department at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where he teaches on Southeast Asia and human rights.