A New Criminal Type in Jakarta

Counter-Revolution Today

A New Criminal Type in Jakarta

Book Pages: 160 Illustrations: Published: August 1998

Author: James T. Siegel

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > Southeast Asia, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In A New Criminal Type in Jakarta, James T. Siegel studies the dependence of Indonesia’s post-1965 government on the ubiquitous presence of what he calls criminality, an ensemble of imagined forces within its society that is poised to tear it apart. Siegel, a foremost authority on Indonesia, interprets Suharto’s New Order—in powerful contrast to Sukarno’s Old Order—and shows a cultural and political life in Jakarta controlled by a repressive regime that has created new ideas among its population about crime, ghosts, fear, and national identity.
Examining the links between the concept of criminality and scandal, rumor, fear, and the state, Siegel analyzes daily life in Jakarta through the seemingly disparate but strongly connected elements of family life, gossip, and sensationalist journalism. He offers close analysis of the preoccupation with crime in Pos Kota (a newspaper directed toward the lower classes) and the middle-class magazine Tempo. Because criminal activity has been a sensationalized preoccupation in Jakarta’s news venues and among its people, criminality, according to Siegel, has pervaded the identities of its ordinary citizens. Siegel examines how and why the government, fearing revolution and in an attempt to assert power, has made criminality itself a disturbing rationalization for the spectacular massacre of the people it calls criminals—many of whom were never accused of particular crimes. A New Criminal Type in Jakarta reveals that Indonesians—once united by Sukarno’s revolutionary proclamations in the name of “the people”—are now, lacking any other unifying element, united through their identification with the criminal and through a “nationalization of death” that has emerged with Suharto’s strong counter-revolutionary measures.
A provocative introduction to contemporary Indonesia, this book will engage those interested in Southeast Asian studies, anthropology, history, political science, postcolonial studies, public culture, and cultural studies generally.


“Siegel’s remarkable book . . . broadens our perspective on social and political change.” — Patricio N. Abinales , Journal of Asian and African Studies

"I am struck by how consistent, daring, and discerning Siegel has been throughout his career. . . . I think of the capacity of Siegel’s work to disturb and astonish us has to do with its movement between the fun house of discourse and the mass grave. As always, his writing is graceful and well paced. He keeps his sentences simple and lucid, yet they attend to intricate detail and the complexities of Derridean and Lacanian thought. . . . [A] challenging book that deserves to be read. . . . My review cannot begin to do justice to the complexities and nuances of Siegel’s analysis in A New Criminal Type in Jakarta. . . . Siegel has pursued the Indonesian political unconscious in a truly brilliant way. . . . [A] milestone work. . . ." — Kenneth M. George , Journal of Asian Studies

“James T. Siegel tells the story of a nation not able to contain its revolution and makes us feel the pathos of its aftermath. This special book challenges any market-optimistic approach to the understanding of Indonesia and non-Western societies in general.” — Rudolf Mrázek, University of Michigan

“The mastermind Suharto conducts his murderous regime of nepotism with cunning and with a profound understanding of Indonesian history, its racial myths and violent obsessions. James Siegel’s amazing book thankfully appears when we need most of all to understand the mind of a dictator, the ruin he has brought upon his country’s democracy, and the further horrors of which he is capable, which may consume us all.” — Richard Klein, Cornell University


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James T. Siegel is Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies at Cornell University and author of numerous books, including Solo in the New Order: Language and Hierarchy in an Indonesian City and Fetish, Recognition, Revolution.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2241-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2212-2
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