In this episode — on the week of the 19th anniversary of the May 1998 riots — we talk with our long-time academic crush Dr. Jemma Purdey of Monash University, who is the author of Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia, 1996-1999 and co-host of the Talking Indonesia podcast. Her expertise and knowledge in Indonesian history and politics helped us unpack what really happened leading up to the May 1998 riots, which killed over 2000 people and led to the rape of 152 Chinese-Indonesian women. We discuss how this event was not due to organic, spontaneous anger but rather was engineered based on ‘stable’ racism against Chinese-Indonesians. We also talked about Indonesia’s history of racism against ethnic Chinese-Indonesians, the impact it has had on national economics and its lasting effects on the psyche of the Chinese-Indonesian community.
In light of Ahok’s recent two-year jail sentence for alleged blasphemy of Islam, we discuss the current rising anti-Chinese sentiments, not aided by comments such as those of Vice-President Jusuf Kalla’s on the myth of Chinese-Indonesians’ economic dominance over indigenous Indonesians. Finally, we end on a hopeful note that Indonesia’s maturing civil society and young democracy has grown enough that we can not only start to talk about the reality of what happened in May 1998, but also prevent it from happening again in the future.
We also have an important announcement:
We will be taking a break to refocus our energy on lining up better interviews, stories, and sound engineering. For any of you who are interested in becoming more involved, we’d love to have you onboard as field producers/researchers/any role you’d be interested in.
For those interested in learning more about the topic, we’ve provided links to resources as well as other recommended readings.
Talking Indonesia — Jemma’s podcasts with Dr. Dave McRae, Dr. Charlotte Setijadi, and Dr. Dirk Tomsa
Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia, 1996-1999 — Jemma’s book, which was such an inspiration for us in college
Joint Fact Finding Team May 1998 Findings — courtesy of Komnas Perempuan (in Indonesian)
Joint Fact Finding Team May 1998 Findings — courtesy of Komnas Perempuan (in English)
Discrimination Against Chinese-Indonesians — a quick run-down of the historical context of this discrimination and violence
Remembering May 1998 — from Inside Indonesia, in 2015
Ethnic Chinese still grapple with discrimination despite generations in Indonesia — courtesy of the Washington Post