INDONESIA STUDY GROUP – Experimenting with Bottom-up Perspectives in Human Rights Accountability and its Influence on Community-based Disaster Recovery in Palu, Central Sulawesi by Dr Vannessa Hearman
Date : 12 Feb 2019
Time : 16:00 - 17:30
Venue : AS8, Level 4, Seminar Room 04-04
10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
National University of Singapore @ KRC



Dr Vannessa Hearman | Charles Darwin University, Australia


Dr Taomo Zhou | Nanyang Technological University, Singapore







Dr Michelle Ann Miller, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore


The Indonesian government’s failure in recognising and rehabilitating survivors of serious human rights violations from the New Order era has, over time, led to non-government organisations and survivor groups turning to psychosocial healing and economic empowerment programs as alternatives. This turn to programs that could be delivered without relying on the central government reflects the failure of transnational justice in Indonesia to date, as well as the ongoing needs of survivors for measures to overcome economic marginalisation and trauma. This paper examines the efforts of non-government organisations, including the SKP-HAM (Solidaritas Korban Pelanggaran HAM, Solidarity with Victims of Human Rights Abuses) in Palu, Central Sulawesi to redefine the concept of justice and the methods to achieve it in working with victims of the 1965-66 anti-communist violence. With the recent earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi, Dr Hearman examines, in turn, how SKP-HAM’s standpoint on justice and economic and social inclusion extends into its disaster recovery work in the communities of Palu and surrounding areas.

This talk will be followed by a discussion on Dr Hearman’s new book Unmarked Graves: Death and Survival in the Anti-Communist Violence in East Java, Indonesia (NUS Press, 2018).


The anti-communist violence that swept across Indonesia in 1965–66 produced a particularly high death toll in East Java. It also transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of survivors, who faced decades of persecution, imprisonment and violence. In this book, Dr Hearman examines the human cost and community impact of the violence on people from different sides of the political divide.

Her major contribution is an examination of the experiences of people on the political Left. Drawing on interviews, archival records, and government and military reports, she traces the lives of a number of individuals, following their efforts to build a base for resistance in the South Blitar area of East Java, and their subsequent journeys into prisons and detention centres, or into hiding and a shadowy underground existence. She also provides a new understanding of relations between the army and its civilian supporters, many of whom belonged to Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama.


Vannessa Hearman is Lecturer in Indonesian Studies at Charles Darwin University (Australia). A historian, her research interests are the 1965-66 mass violence in Indonesia and transnational activism in relation to Indonesia and Timor-Leste. She is the author of Unmarked Graves: Death and Survival in the Anti-Communist Violence in East Java, Indonesia (NUS Press, 2018).

Taomo Zhou is Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She specializes in modern Chinese and Southeast Asian history. In particular, her teaching and research interests focus on the nexus of geopolitics and migration in the twentieth-century. Taomo received her BA from Peking University and Waseda University, M. Sc. with Distinction from the London School of Economics and PhD in History from Cornell University. Her writings have appeared in publications such as The China Quarterly, the journal Indonesia, and The SAGE Handbook of Contemporary China. Taomo's forthcoming book, Migration in the Time of Revolution: China, Indonesia and the Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2019), demonstrates that migration and the political activism of the overseas Chinese were important historical forces in the making of the governmental relations between China and Indonesia during the Cold War. Grounded in multilingual archival research as well as oral history interviews with refugees, retired diplomats, former political prisoners and communist exiles, this book demonstrates how state-to-state diplomacy was influenced or even limited by transnational ethnic ties and the daily social and political practices of a minority group. This project also changes how we understand the regime change and mass violence in Indonesia in 1965-66. Having grown up in a migrant family in Shenzhen, the first special economic zone of China, she is also starting a second project on the historical transformation of this modern metropolis.


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Contact Person(s)
Minghua TAY