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The Massacres of 1965-66 in Indonesia: The Question of Responsibility

  • Columbia University International Affairs Building Rm. 918 (map)

Long ignored or deliberately misrepresented, the mass killing of some 500,000 Indonesian communists and leftists in 1965-66 has recently become the focus of serious historical inquiry. Among those who have undertaken this work are historians John Roosa and Geoffrey Robinson. A central aspect of their work has been the problem of responsibility for the killings. In this forum, Roosa and Robinson explore that question from complementary perspectives; with Robinson addressing both the international and national dimensions of responsibility, and Roosa excavating the dynamics at the local level.  

Geoffrey Robinson is a Professor of History at UCLA where he teaches and writes about political violence, genocide, human rights, and mass incarceration. His books include: The Dark Side of Paradise: Political Violence in BaliEast Timor 1999: Crimes against Humanity“If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die”: How Genocide Was Stopped in East Timor; and most recently, The Killing Season: A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965-66. Robinson worked for six years at Amnesty International, and in 1999 he served as a Political Affairs Officer with the United Nations in Dili, East Timor. He is currently co-editing a book of photographs and images related to the mass violence of 1965-66 in Indonesia.

John Roosa is an Associate Professor of History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He is the author of a book examining the event that Suharto’s army used to justify the violent attack on the communist movement:Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Suharto’s Coup d’État. He has authored a number of articles about the massacres, such as “The State of Knowledge about an Open Secret,” and co-edited an Indonesian-language oral history book about the experience of the victims: Tahun yang Tak Pernah Berakhir. His presentation is drawn from the book manuscript he is currently finishing titled Buried Memories.