Fetish, Recognition, Revolution

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Princeton University Press, 1997 - History - 275 pages
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This book concerns the role of language in the Indonesian revolution. James Siegel, an anthropologist with long experience in various parts of that country, traces the beginnings of the Indonesian revolution, which occurred from 1945 through 1949 and which ended Dutch colonial rule, to the last part of the nineteenth century. At that time, the peoples of the Dutch East Indies began to translate literature from most places in the world. Siegel discovers in that moment a force within communication more important than the specific messages it conveyed. The subsequent containment of this linguistic force he calls the "fetish of modernity," which, like other fetishes, was thought to be able to compel events. Here, the event is the recognition of the bearer of the fetish as a person of the modern world.

The taming of this force in Indonesian nationalism and the continuation of its wild form in the revolution are the major subjects of the book. Its material is literature from Indonesian and Dutch as well as first-person accounts of the revolution.


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The I of a Lingua Franca
If I Were a Dutchman
What Did Not Happen to Indonesians
A Society of Appearances
Fetishizing Appearance or Is I a Criminal?
Evading Fiction
The Ghost of the Lingua Franca
Appearances Again
The Wish for Hierarchy
The Impulse toward Hierarchy
The Crowd
Collaboration and Cautious Rebellion
Suspicion Again
Red Money Cautious Rebellion

The Camera and the Law
Student Hidjau and The Feeling of Freedom
Scandal Women Authors and SinoMalay Nationalism
Love Sick or the Failures of the Fetish and of Translation
Revolution Without the Fetish of Modernity Freedom or Death
No Entry
Pramoedya Ananta Toers Flunky + Maid or Conservative Indonesian Revolutionary Indonesian and the Lack of Indonesian Literature

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Page 3 - Afore I looked upon the Scripture as a history of things that passed in other countries, pertaining to other persons ; but now I looked upon it as a mystery to be opened at this time, belonging also to us".
Page x - Anglophone world, has yet to be exploited by anthropologists and historians in the way it might be. It is in the first place because he shows the impossibility of our disciplines, precisely their lack of foundation. To continue after him means to accept this impossibility. But we must respond all the same, taking up in a context never imagined by him issues he has raised.

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About the author (1997)

James T. Siegel is Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies at Cornell University and author of numerous books, including Solo in the New Order: Language and Hierarchy in an Indonesian City and Fetish, Recognition, Revolution. 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 revealsthat 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.

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