Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

4 - Good Hadji, Bad Hadji: The Representation of Religion in Communist Movement Short Fiction in Early 1950s Indonesia

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Chinar, First Floor

In the early 1950s, the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) grew from a demoralized membership of some 5000 to become the largest communist party outside of the Soviet bloc, claiming a membership of over one million by the beginning of 1956. A central part of the strategy employed to achieve this was an engaged and dynamic attitude to the popular culture of the time. This paper looks at one aspect of that engagement: short fiction in the communist party organ, Harian Rakjat (The People's Daily, HR). In particular, it focuses on the difficult issue of the relationship between the communism and religion and how this was navigated in fictional representations of the movement written by the overwhelmingly amateur writers published in HR.


The issue of the movement's relationship to religion was fraught before the mass slaughter of communists in 1965-66. It was a significant line of attack for anti-communist groups like the largest Muslim party of the time, Masjumi. It became especially fraught after the political genocide of 1965-66, as the movement's supposed "atheism" was one of the main justifications used for the butchery of between 500,000 and a million people. In contrast to such tropes that continue to be put forward in Indonesia and elsewhere, these short stories show a popular movement trying to grapple with a deeply religious society that is also unequal and riven with conflict.

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4 - Good Hadji, Bad Hadji: The Representation of Religion in Communist Movement Short Fiction in Early 1950s Indonesia



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