Activist Archives

Youth Culture and the Political Past in Indonesia

Activist Archives

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 18 illustrations Published: May 2016

Author: Doreen Lee

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > Southeast Asia, Sociology

In Activist Archives Doreen Lee tells the origins, experiences, and legacy of the radical Indonesian student movement that helped end the thirty-two-year dictatorship in May 1998. Lee situates the revolt as the most recent manifestation of student activists claiming a political and historical inheritance passed down by earlier generations of politicized youth. Combining historical and ethnographic analysis of "Generation 98," Lee offers rich depictions of the generational structures, nationalist sentiments, and organizational and private spaces that bound these activists together. She examines the ways the movement shaped new and youthful ways of looking, seeing, and being—found in archival documents from the 1980s and 1990s; the connections between politics and place; narratives of state violence; activists' experimental lifestyles; and the uneven development of democratic politics on and off the street. Lee illuminates how the interaction between official history, collective memory, and performance came to define youth citizenship and resistance in Indonesia’s transition to the post-Suharto present. 


"... the main strength of Activist Archives is that it raises important questions by not providing all the answers. In this way, it invites frequent re-reading, creating a richer understanding of the micropolitics of student activism upon each re-read." — Yatun Sastramidjaja, Contemporary Southeast Asia

"Lee has produced an exemplary study of the under-researched field of the everyday life of Indonesian politics and its forefront agent of change." — Kharisma Nugroho, Journal of Applied Youth Studies

Activist Archives can be called a definitive work that will be prized as perhaps the best ‘biography’ of a generation of Indonesian urban activism.”

— Abidin Kusno, Pacific Affairs

"A new perspective on the legacy and role of activism in a more democratic Indonesia. . . . Gene Sharp’s recipe for nonviolent revolution and the successful uprisings in the Arab Spring have brought activism and the role of students and youth back to the forefront of how we can understand regime change. Doreen Lee’s book provides us with much more detail on who the students are, the conditions under which they organize, live, demonstrate, connect with the past and with the masses, the 'rakyat.'" — Amy L. Freedman, Anthropos

Activist Archives is an important exploration of the 1998 Indonesian student movement and its ongoing influence, adding greatly to our knowledge of student movements and democratization in postcolonial settings.” — Rachel Rinaldo, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research

“[Activist Archives] does a real service for scholars through engaging and presenting . . . these activist writings, for they reference something inalienable and untranslatable regarding the New Order’s notion of the exception of sovereignty. The book therefore contributes to understanding the archive as both a subject in as well as an object of social science inquiry.” — Dylan Fagan, Asian Journal of Social Science

"Activist Archives undoubtedly offers us a new approach to the analysis of Reformasi, student and youth politics in the recent history of Indonesia. It provides new insights, enriched via an extensive use of fieldwork and archival material." — John G. Taylor, Asian Affairs

"Lee’s work . . . attends carefully to the production and recuperation of activist archives." — Johan Lindquist, Anthropology of this Century

Activist Archives is undoubtedly a significant contribution to the anthropological analysis of youths and political culture in modern Indonesian history.” — Farabi Fakih, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

“A valuable expansion. Activist Archives should be of interest to students and other scholars from a range of disciplines concerned with the ephemerality and endurance of democratic transitions.” — Mary E. McCoy, Journal of Asian Studies

"Activist Archives is rich in many ways. . . It will find an appreciative audience, in Indonesian studies and well beyond." — David Kloos, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"An important contribution of Activist Archives is its focus on the everyday places of politics and the repertoires of resistance central to student and youth politics. . . . The book shows how grand political ideals and the memories of protest movements thrive in everyday spaces, how the politics of resistance is reproduced and how the memories of past politics have helped to shape activists in the present." — Salman Hussain, PoLAR

"Elegantly written, rich with ethnographic and archival material, and bursting with theoretical insights, Activist Archives offers novel analysis of one of the most important subjects of contemporary Indonesia. In Doreen Lee's sensitive ethnography the student activist emerges expressing a mix of fiery passion, intellectual idealism, irreverent playfulness, hipster self-consciousness, nostalgia, rivalry, and disillusionment. Artfully tacking between theory and the activists' everyday experiences, Lee shows how 'generation 98' has both sustained its identity and faded in relevance. Activist Archives will be a classic." — Karen Strassler, author of Refracted Visions: Popular Photography and National Modernity in Java

"Following the students through the city's streets, highways, dormitories, cafes, and other city spaces, Doreen Lee brings Jakarta to life, and what she tells us is truly enlightening. Activist Archives makes a significant contribution to Indonesian studies and to the study of youth activism in the world generally." — Rudolf Mrázek, author of A Certain Age: Colonial Jakarta through the Memories of Its Intellectuals


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Doreen Lee is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Northeastern University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  ix

Acknowledgments  xiii

A Note about Names  xvii

Introduction. Pemuda Fever  1

1. Archive  25

2. Street  57

3. Style  85

4. Violence  117

5. Home  147

6. Democracy  179

Conclusion. A Return to Home  209

Notes  219

Bibliography  247

Index  269
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner of the 2019 Harry J. Benda Prize for the Best First Book in Southeast Asian Studies, presented by the Association for Asian Studies

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6171-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6152-7
Publicity material