Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
The history of genjer in Indonesia tells of a tangled political past. Genjer is not indigenous to Indonesia. Native to Central and South America, Limnocharis flava (L), also known as “yellow bur-head”, is a prolific exotic weed in Southeast Asia. Brought to Java by humans, the plant proliferated and distributed itself widely without human intent or intervention. The genjer weed first gained wide-spread notice through a simple folk song. Over the past six decades, that song has been used in propaganda campaigns by political actors including Indonesian nationalists, the Indonesian Communist Party, and Suharto’s ruling Golkar Party and New Order Regime. The latter spawned a period of extraordinary violence, beginning in 1965, in which millions of people were killed and disappeared. These massacres, which targeted communists and those accused of being communist sympathizers, are part of a dark history that continues to cast its shadow. Today, people imbue genjer with new meanings as part of truth and reconciliation efforts. Although genjer’s story is unique, it highlights how a plant’s history reveals much about human-non-human entanglements in world-making processes. This paper emphasizes how a humble plant, genjer, has been a force in the shaping of Indonesia’s political, cultural and ecological landscape.