Anti-Chinese violence in Indonesia, 1996-1999

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Indonesians of Chinese descent constitute only two to three per cent of the country’s population but dominate the private business sector. Serious acts of violence against this ethnic minority occurred during Indonesia’s colonial past, and after a period relatively free of such incidents became increasingly frequent during the final years of Suharto’s New Order. In this first book-length study of anti-Chinese hostility during the collapse of Suharto’s regime, Jemma Purdey presents a close analysis of the main incidents of violence during the transitional period between 1996 and 1999, and the unprecedented process of national reflection that ensued. The mass violence that accompanied the fall of the regime in May 1998 affected not only ethnic Chinese but also indigenous or pribumi Indonesians. The author places anti-Chinese riots within this broader context, considering causes and agency as well as the way violence has been represented. While ethnicity and prejudice are central to the explanation put forward, she concludes that politics, economics and religion offer additional keys to understanding why such outbreaks occurred. Jemma Purdey is a Fellow with the Department of Political Science at the University of Melbourne, where she earned her PhD in 2002. …an absorbing, well balanced study reflecting a high level of scholarship.”

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