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Situated Testimonies

Situated Testimonies: Dread and Enchantment in an Indonesian Literary Archive

Laurie J. Sears
Copyright Date: 2013
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    Situated Testimonies
    Book Description:

    "This is a remarkable book in the way it attempts to tease out and crash through the barriers of self-restricting and self-restraining area studies.Situated Testimoniesposes a challenge to Indonesianists as well as to many beyond the field. It is an adventure embarked upon with the help of Freud, Lacan, and other friends and foes. Sears demonstrates both the benefits and tribulations of such an endeavor. At its best, her book attains an impressive simplicity as it uncovers a sense of the world in both its subjects-the colonial and postcolonial literary figures-and its author as she thinks and writes about them." -Rudolf Mrazek, University of Michigan"In her innovative and sophisticated new book, Laurie Sears re-writes portions of the literary history of Indonesia over a sweep of many decades. Sears time-travels across the colonial and postcolonial divide, letting theory, translation, anxiety, and memory function as her airplane. It is an interesting and illuminating ride that we get to take with her." -Eric Tagliacozzo, Cornell UniversityThe Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer made a distinction between a "downstream" literary reality and an "upstream" historical reality. Pramoedya suggested that literature has an effect on the upstream flow of history and that it can in fact change history. InSituated TestimoniesLaurie Sears illuminates this process by considering a selection of Dutch Indies and Indonesian literary works that span the twentieth century and beyond and by showing how authors like Louis Couperus and Maria Dermoût help retell and remodel history.Sears sees certain literary works as "situated testimonies," bringing ineffable experiences of trauma into narrative form and preserving something of the dread and enchantment that animated the past. These literary works offer a method of reading the emotional traces that historians may fail to witness or record-traces that elude archival constructions where political factors or colonial conditions have influenced processes of what is preserved and how it is shaped. Sears' use of Donna Haraway's notion of "situatedness" reiterates the idea that all of us speak from somewhere. Testimony, especially eyewitness testimony, is a gold standard in historical methodology, and the authors of literary works are eyewitnesses of their time. But the works of authors like Tirto Adhi Soerjo and Soewarsih Djojopoespito are first of all written as literature, and literary or stylistic devices cannot be ignored.Sears finds substantial evidence of the movement of psychoanalytic theories between Europe and the Indies/Indonesia throughout the twentieth century. She concludes that far from being only a Jewish or European discourse, psychoanalysis is a transnational discourse of desire that has influenced Indies and Indonesian writers for more than a century. Psychoanalytic ideas, and the suggestion by French psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche and Indonesian author Ayu Utami that memories, like literature, can move us back and forth in time, have inspired Sears' thinking about historical archives, literature, and trauma.Soekarno's words haunt this book as he haunts Indonesia's past.Situated Testimoniesrewrites portions of the literary and social history of Indonesia over a sweep of many decades. Historians, scholars of literary theory, and Indonesianists will all be interested in the book's insights on how colonial and postcolonial novels of the Indies and Indonesia illuminate nationalist narratives and imperial histories.Laurie J. Searsis professor of history at the University of Washington in Seattle.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3911-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xx)
  5. Note on Conventions
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  6. Selected Timeline of Indies and Indonesian Histories
    (pp. xxiii-xxv)
  7. Map of Indonesia
    (pp. xxvi-xxvi)
  8. INTRODUCTION: The Afterwardsness of History
    (pp. 1-16)

    The late Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer makes a distinction between a “downstream” literary reality and an “upstream” historical reality. Pramoedya suggests that literature has an effect on the upstream flow of history, that it can change history.Situated Testimoniesfollows and illuminates this process through considering a selection of Dutch Indies and Indonesian writers whose works span the breadth of the twentieth century and beyond. The book suggests that literary works can bring ineffable experiences of trauma into narrative form. Pramoedya’s books on the turn-of-the-twentieth-century writer Tirto Adhi Soerjo, one of the writers discussed in Chapter 2, have changed...

  9. CHAPTER 1 Desire, Phantoms, and Commodities: Maria Dermoût’s Colonial Critique
    (pp. 17-49)

    As the epigraphs above suggest, both Dutch Indies author Maria Dermoût and psychoanalyst and literary theorist Nicolas Abraham theorize time in terms of narrative, love objects, and phantoms. According to Abraham, these gaps or “phantoms” are caused by the traumas handed down in individual families, where secrets are kept that prevent new generations from understanding their particular pasts. My analysis of novels as situated testimonies is structured around both what is revealed in literary texts and what is concealed in phantoms or traumas from the past. The phantoms or traumas are encrypted in narrative and locked away from self-understanding by...

  10. CHAPTER 2 At Home and Not at Home in Empire: Transnational Phantasies of Colonial Modernity
    (pp. 50-87)

    If Maria Dermoût both refuted and commemorated her awareness of the politics of empire, the same cannot be said for Louis Couperus, arguably one of Holland’s most prolific and respected authors. Couperus firmly rejected the career in the Indies colonial service that he was groomed for by his family and felt no compulsion about exposing the decadence of the Dutch imperial bureaucracy. Dermoût was a writer of Indies Letters, but Couperus’ inclusion as an author of Indies Letters is based on only one of almost forty novels that he wrote during his lifetime (1863–1923). Couperus thus stands within the...

  11. CHAPTER 3 A Neurotic Family Romance of Modernity and the National Form
    (pp. 88-119)

    Soewarsih’s Djojopoespito’sBuiten het gareel(Free from Restraints) is an Indies novel written in Dutch about the romance and narrativity of revolutionary activity rather than a novel that hides phantoms from the past.¹ It was published in Holland in 1940, just after the Germans invaded Holland. Soewarsih does expose family secrets in her novel, and her activist older sister Soewarni Pringgodigdo was deeply upset about the family stories that the novel tells. It is thus a neurotic family romance, or family narrative, in the sense that Soewarsih’s novel from the late 1930s portrays and then deconstructs the romantic nationalist imaginings...

  12. CHAPTER 4 The End of the Nationalist Romance
    (pp. 120-158)

    Soewarsih Djojopoespito fell into obscurity after World War II, but she wrote essays for several publications before the war, and a variety of novels and short stories after it. She also retold the life of the Prophet Muhammad for high school and college students in 1956.² Perhaps feeling sensitive to her sister’s criticisms ofBuiten het gareel, discussed in the previous chapter, Soewarsih wrote a novel titledMaryatithat told the story of a sibling relationship in a period before the events inBuiten het gareel. The older sister of Maryati, the main character, is again a feminist activist, but...

  13. CHAPTER 5 Trauma and Its Doubles in Postcolonial Masculinity
    (pp. 159-175)

    In 1963 H. B. Jassin, Goenawan Mohamad, Arief Budiman, and other artists and writers signed the “Cultural Manifesto” (I Manifes Kebudajaan, Manikebu), proclaiming their right to artistic freedom. At the time the politics of LEKRA, the left-leaning arts organization supported by President Soekarno and Pramoedya Ananta Toer, were at their most strident, calling for artists and writers to adhere to the aesthetics and priorities of socialist realism.¹ The ideas that Soewarsih Djojopoespito and Armijn Pané advocated in their essays of the late 1930s and early 1940s on universal humanism, individualism, and therakyat, or people, were at the heart of...

  14. CHAPTER 6 Masculinist Trauma and Feminist Melancholia
    (pp. 176-201)

    Ayu Utami is one of the most impressive of the post–New Order generation of novelists writing in Indonesia today. Combining her skills in research journalism with a poetic feel for language and a fresh approach to human subjectivity and sexuality, Ayu’s novels have become popular in Indonesia and beyond.¹ Ayu’s novelSamanand its sequelLarunginvestigate how trauma shapes and haunts Indonesian archives. Because history writing during the New Order period (March 1966 to May 1998) was supposed to follow New Order master narratives, and foreign researchers could be banned from Indonesia for stirring up controversial memories, the...

  15. AFTERWORD: Trauma, Translation, and a Critical Path
    (pp. 202-214)

    Trauma, translation, and a critical path succinctly capture the moment in time where this book ends. The theme of trauma has haunted this book, and the various chapters have attempted to unravel the workings of trauma in the history of the twentieth-century colonial Indies and the postcolonial state of Indonesia through reading literatures as situated testimonies of the past. Colonial modernity has given way to new imperial formations in the twenty-first century. Indonesia’s politics of global location have moved clearly away from the Dutch world and into Islamic, East and Southeast Asian, and American circulations of power, people, media, and...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 215-274)
  17. Glossary
    (pp. 275-280)
  18. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 281-304)
  19. Index
    (pp. 305-318)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 319-327)