Cultural Imaginary, the Rule of Law, and (Post-) Colonialism in Indonesia: Perspectives from Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s This Earth of Mankind

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By Jeffrey E. Thomas on Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Published in Research Online – University of Wollongong,
Apr 01, 2014

This article focuses on culture and rule of law in Indonesia, which provides an excellent case study in colonialism and post-colonialism. The colonial heritage of the Indonesian islands goes back to the early 1500s and lasted for approximately four centuries (Schultz 2002:144- 145) until independence was declared in August 1945 (GoGwilt 1996: 158). This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer is an appropriate text through which to view the issues surrounding colonialism and post-colonialism because it represents the struggle of a Native Indonesian with various colonial institutions at the turn of the 19th Century; these struggles have been chronicled by an author who lived through colonial rule, Japanese occupation, and liberation. In addition, the narrative is interesting because Parmoedya1 had been imprisoned by the Colonial Dutch, and then again by Indonesian authorities, for his literary activities (Samuels 1999). This Earth of Mankind, perhaps Pramoedya’s most popular novel, was written (more accurately ‘recited’) during his fourteen-year imprisonment on Buru Island (Lane 1991). Pramoedya has won several writing awards (GoGwilt 1996: 149), and has been nominated several times for the Nobel Prise in literature (BBC News 2006). He ‘has long been recognised as Indonesia’s most significant literary voice’ (GoGwilt 2003: 217).

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