Organized Panel Session
Since the mass anti-Communist violence of 1965-66, the ‘Communist Threat’ has been a recurring theme in Indonesian politics. This cross-disciplinary panel includes four studies that examine military and civilian encounters with the ‘Communist Threat’ between 1965 and today. The papers address intersecting themes, including the role of civilian and military organizations in the violence, the instrumentalization of the ‘Communist Threat’ for political purposes, the utility of denial for political and organizational ends, and the role of memory in bridging the past and the present. Reflecting the interdisciplinary composition of the panel, these studies rely on a diverse array of methods, including oral interviews, the use of primary and secondary written sources, and statistical analysis. Chandra and Zhang use spatial analytics to study variations in the degree to which various organizations likely participated in the violence. Fealy examines how discourses on Communism have been instrumentalized by the Nahdlatul Ulama Party (NU) to serve the organization’s agendas by redefining and narrowing the boundaries of ‘acceptable’ public expression and associational activity. Hefner emphasizes the importance of the memory of the violence as a point of moral reference in Javanese society and illuminates a profound shift in the salience and tenor of discussions of the violence over time. Melvin examines the role of the army’s denial of culpability for the killings in allowing it to perpetuate its close relationship with civilian militia groups. Together, these papers address a variety of interrelated questions that illuminate the legacy of the mass killings of 1965-66 in Indonesia.