In A New Criminal Type in Jakarta
, James T. Siegel studies the dependence of Indonesia’s post-1965 government on the ubiquitous presence of what he calls criminality, an ensemble of imagined forces within its society that is poised to tear it apart. Siegel, a foremost authority on Indonesia, interprets Suharto’s New Order—in powerful contrast to Sukarno’s Old Order—and shows a cultural and political life in Jakarta controlled by a repressive regime that has created new ideas among its population about crime, ghosts, fear, and national identity.
Examining the links between the concept of criminality and scandal, rumor, fear, and the state, Siegel analyzes daily life in Jakarta through the seemingly disparate but strongly connected elements of family life, gossip, and sensationalist journalism. He offers close analysis of the preoccupation with crime in Pos Kota
(a newspaper directed toward the lower classes) and the middle-class magazine Tempo
. Because criminal activity has been a sensationalized preoccupation in Jakarta’s news venues and among its people, criminality, according to Siegel, has pervaded the identities of its ordinary citizens. Siegel examines how and why the government, fearing revolution and in an attempt to assert power, has made criminality itself a disturbing rationalization for the spectacular massacre of the people it calls criminals—many of whom were never accused of particular crimes. A New Criminal Type in Jakarta
reveals that Indonesians—once united by Sukarno’s revolutionary proclamations in the name of “the people”—are now, lacking any other unifying element, united through their identification with the criminal and through a “nationalization of death” that has emerged with Suharto’s strong counter-revolutionary measures.
A provocative introduction to contemporary Indonesia, this book will engage those interested in Southeast Asian studies, anthropology, history, political science, postcolonial studies, public culture, and cultural studies generally.