Southeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Japan’s Prewar ‘Cultural Propaganda’ in Indonesia

Friday, July 6
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Silveroak II, Ground Floor

Notwithstanding the abundance of scholarly works elaborating Japan’s arduous process of modernization, most Indonesians still perceive Japan as great, solely because of her ‘great culture.’

I try to trace the historical roots of such ‘national belief’ by looking into the writings on Japan published in “Poedjangga Baroe” (The New Writer), the major literary magazine in Indonesia in the 1930s. Coincidentally, in the early 1930s, in order to create a ‘peaceful and graceful’ image (myth) of Japan,日本文化連盟 (Federation of Culture of Japan) was established, and published a magazine, “Cultural Nippon”, to introduce ‘Japan’s Culture’ to foreigners. Articles in “Cultural Nippon” were quoted and greatly appreciated by writers of “Poedjangga Baroe”, who later served as leaders in the cultural organization established by Japanese military regime. After Indonesia’s independence, they kept on exerting great influence on public discourse.

I argue that in the 1930s when Indonesian intellectuals were eager ‘to learn from the world’ in order to invent a national culture, some of them found ‘the Japanese cultures’ created for wartime propaganda, and took it for granted as ‘Japanese culture’. So great was the impact of those ‘myth’ introduced at the time when it was badly needed, that it is still deeply rooted in the mind of most Indonesians, regardless of the vicissitudes that Japan had undergone during several decades after the WWII.

Susy Ong

University of Indonesia, Indonesia

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1 - Japan’s Prewar ‘Cultural Propaganda’ in Indonesia



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