Video online seminar on the origin of Indonesian populism

On 7 May 2020 KITLV organized the online seminar ‘The origins of Indonesian populism; public debate in Java, March-June 1945’  by Gerry van Klinken. The seminar was live streamed on Facebook.

The video can be watched here.

Is populism a harbinger of fascism, or simply the people talking back to the establishment? Today’s worldwide debate about populism resonated in Indonesia during recent presidential elections. The present paper revisits the origins of populism in this huge developing country. They arguably lie in a wide-ranging public discussion about the shape of a future independent Indonesia during the last months of the Pacific War. Historians have paid curiously little attention to it. Yet it shaped subsequent revolutionary discourse and into the independent Republic. Much of that discussion can be characterized as “populist,” meaning it envisioned unmediated contact between a charismatic leader and an unorganized mass following. Little of it was concerned with building democratic institutions. Instead it spoke of a “Super Leader”, of “blood,” and of the “family”. Some influential interpretations have seen in it a proto-fascist precursor to New Order “organicist” ideology. The present study explores the 1945 discussion in the light of theoretical work focusing particularly on Latin America that sees its democratic potential. The analytical emphasis shifts from ideological configurations to political action. It looks to organization during a critical juncture, to class, in short, to citizenship.

Gerry van Klinken is honorary fellow at KITLV, where he was senior researcher until his retirement in 2018.

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