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Jakarta Post

Questioning the relevance of nat'l awakening today

  • Ariel Heryanto

Victoria, Australia   /   Wed, May 21 2008   /  10:44 am

On Tuesday, Indonesia celebrated the 100th anniversary of its "national awakening", commemorating the founding of Boedi Oetomo in 1908. This is officially considered to be the first modern "Indonesian" organization, but this is also highly contentious. No writing in Indonesian has challenged this myth as strongly as Pramoedya Ananta Toer's highly celebrated semi-historical tetralogy. The novels suggest that Boedi Oetomo was basically an exclusive men's club -- more precisely, an exclusively an aristocratic Javanese men's club. Because of its remarkably conservative character, the Dutch colonial administration tolerated this, instead of the more populist and egalitarian Islamic association (Sarekat Dagang Islamiyah) which was founded a few years earlier. But the independent state has preferred to adopt the colonial historiography. Although his n...