Memories of Communist Victims at Buton Island: An Anthropological Studies on Historicity and Memories.

There have been major studies about Partai Komunis Indonesia (Indonesia Communist Party) and its rebellions. Most of them were paying attention on either the massacre or the actors involved in one of the most unforgettable episode ever happening in Indonesia. Such studies can be found in many researchers’ work, namely Anderson (1977), Cribb (1990), Crouch (1973), Lev (1966), Robinson (1995), Sulistiyo (2000), and Suryawan (2007). While they focused on the massacre, numbers of victims, and other statistical facts, I am trying to identify how the mass murder created traumatic and painful memories in every victim's head and how they interpret them. For many years, PKI tragedy have awaken everlasting trauma for Indonesian, especially the victim's themselves. Tough the government held ritual ceremonies yearly, yet it recalled only the memories about what happened in long time past.

What people experiences from the massacre are clearly saved in individual's head or in limited conversation? Orde Baru’s threatening had made victims hesitate to tell their stories. Therefore, they became silent, instead. On the other hand, through cultural strategy, the government forced a single social memory of the mass destruction. As a result, rests of people were justified guilty of being insurgent. Living in such under pressured condition, the cracks wasn't suddenly healed. They have spelled for years and have become collective memories experienced by the whole people of Indonesia. They keep staying behind either in individuals or collective trauma tried to be buried for long. The prints have also influenced human's activities. In my opinion, linking those puzzles of aching memories into an integral part is a starting point in my research.

Problem Formulation

I became interested to choose Buton Island which is far from center of power as my research setting considering that this kind of study mostly focused in Central Java, East Java, and Bali's term of condition. Though the large amount of injured party is undeniable --Cribbs called it as the killing fields--, this idea might brought them into statistical numbers. In the end, those victims lived outside the fields have no suitable chance to speak.

This project is not intended to be a tight history research through archives and historical documentations. Instead, it is an anthropological research demands on field studies and empirical fact searching. During my research, I am not going to find out how PKI rebelled, as an oral historical researcher did. I intend to see how memories of a historical event captured and uttered culturally by subject and communities. Focused on cultural aspect, I took ethnography as my research method. By doing so, meaning can be recognized, not only from subject's experiences, but also how they arranged strategy and dealt with situations after the massacre. Ethnography helps me understanding both on how historical events influenced human activities and why memories remain or be forgotten.

A major strain has been represented by the cultural perspective: a way to investigate individual, collective, and social memory based on the analysis of particular cultural symbols and their relation to the exercise of power. In this respect, the main aim is to understand how cultural meanings are produced, how an external object (such as a memorial or a museum) can deeply intervene in the reconstruction of a certain past. Collective memories are conceived in the relation between form and content. The meaning of the past ‘‘emerges and is sustained through the dynamic interaction between the content of historical events and the forms of collective memory available to those intent on their preservation and public inscription’’ (Wagner-Pacifici, 1996: 301). Studies concerned with remembering at the cultural level generally focus on documenting the extent of cultural symbols in shaping the content and the meaning of an historical event.

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