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Silencing and Fake Alternatives in Construction of Indonesian Literature

Papers (in PDF)

By Okky Madasari

In this article:
Published in Research Gate,
Jan 21, 2020


This paper examines how the early history of modern Indonesian literature has been constructed in line with the colonial’s and authoritarian government’s perspectives and interests by silencing critical literary works and then fabricating narratives as fake alternatives. Focusing on the works by Dutch scholar A. Teeuw and several Indonesian literary critics, prominent and dominant in shaping the discourse of Indonesian literature today, this paper argues that the main narrative of the history of Indonesian literature was founded based on interests, ideology and lies rather than facts. By proving not only the existence of original Indonesian literary works prior to Balai Pustaka but also showing that these marginalised works have high quality, this paper challenges the current dominant and believed narratives of Dutch’s dominant role in forming Indonesian literature, while contributing to the strengthening of push for reconstruction and rewriting of the history of Indonesian literature as we know it.


When was the modern Indonesian literature born? It is the first question to be answered to start the discussion on Indonesian literature. The main narrative is that the history of Indonesia’s literature started in the early 1920s when Balai Pustaka, the publishing house established by the Dutch colonial, and claimed to be the first publisher that printed the first modern Indonesian novels, began to release its Indonesian novels. Regardless of all critics and doubts raised by a number of intellectuals, this timeline which has been used by school textbooks in Indonesia until now shows the narrative has not only been dominant but also fully supported by governments since the colonial era until today, 74 years after the independence of Indonesia, because such a construction meets their interests.

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