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Distributed for National University of Singapore Press

Sites, Bodies and Stories

Imagining Indonesian History

Sites, Bodies and Stories examines the intimate links between history and heritage as they have developed in postcolonial Indonesia. Sites discussed in the book include Borobudur in Central Java, a village in Flores built around megalithic formations, and ancestral houses in Alor. Bodies refers to legacies of physical anthropology, exhibition practices and Hollywood movies. The Stories are accounts of the Mambesak movement in Papua, the inclusion of wayang puppetry in UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and subaltern history as written by the people of Blambangan in their search for national heroes. Throughout the book, citizenship entitlement figures as a leitmotif in heritage initiatives.


           Contemporary heritage formation in Indonesia is intrinsically linked to a canon of Indonesian art and culture developed during Dutch colonial rule, institutionalized within Indonesia’s heritage infrastructure and in the Netherlands, and echoed in museums and exhibitions throughout the world. The authors in this volume acknowledge colonial legacies but argue against a colonial determinism, considering instead how contemporary heritage initiatives can lead to new interpretations of the past.

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