The Appearances of Memory

Mnemonic Practices of Architecture and Urban Form in Indonesia

The Appearances of Memory

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 60 illustrations Published: February 2010

Author: Abidin Kusno

Asian Studies > Southeast Asia, Geography, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In The Appearances of Memory, the Indonesian architectural and urban historian Abidin Kusno explores the connections between the built environment and political consciousness in Indonesia during the colonial and postcolonial eras. Focusing primarily on Jakarta, he describes how perceptions of the past, anxieties about the rapid pace of change in the present, and hopes for the future have been embodied in architecture and urban space at different historical moments. He argues that the built environment serves as a reminder of the practices of the past and an instantiation of the desire to remake oneself within, as well as beyond, one’s particular time and place.

Addressing developments in Indonesia since the fall of President Suharto’s regime in 1998, Kusno delves into such topics as the domestication of traumatic violence and the restoration of order in the urban space, the intense interest in urban history in contemporary Indonesia, and the implications of “superblocks,” large urban complexes consisting of residences, offices, shops, and entertainment venues. Moving farther back in time, he examines how Indonesian architects reinvented colonial architectural styles to challenge the political culture of the state, how colonial structures such as railway and commercial buildings created a new, politically charged cognitive map of cities in Java in the early twentieth century, and how the Dutch, in attempting to quell dissent, imposed a distinctive urban visual order in the 1930s. Finally, the present and the past meet in his long-term considerations of how Java has responded to the global flow of Islamic architecture, and how the meanings of Indonesian gatehouses have changed and persisted over time. The Appearances of Memory is a pioneering look at the roles of architecture and urban development in Indonesia’s ongoing efforts to move forward.


The Appearances of Memory offers new perspectives and interesting analysis of political cultures and the experience of urbanism in Indonesia, providing the reader with a better understanding of the complexity of urban problems in the country.” — Deden Rukmana, Pacific Affairs

The Appearance of Memory is very much a revisionist work that deftly manages a plethora of knowledge and detail about the Indonesian city to provide new insight into its dynamics. The book is full of pithy summations that deftly capture well developed themes in Indonesian sociological studies, but, more importantly, it contextualizes these themes through insightful analysis of architectural forms.” — Robbie Peters, Oceania

“[Kusno] provides a brilliant diachronic cartography of different architectural and urban elements in contemporary Jakarta and their connection to or disjuncture from the past. . . . [T]his is an exceptional and truly enjoyable book, a good companion to the author’s previous book, Behind the Postcolonial (2000).” — Eduardo Ascensão, Planning Perspectives

“[T]he essays are well-designed, their themes are carefully developed, and there is ample evidence to give credence to the conclusions that are drawn. The essays are scholarly, unambiguous, and meaningful to the reader. The use of examples from architecture are well-chosen and make the collection an especially good representative of this genre. The author’s two major themes. . .are a strong contribution to the scholarly literature on the history and architecture of Java. . . . [T]he work is well done and worth reading.” — Howard M. Federspiel, Indonesia

“[U]nique and engaging. . . . [M]akes a considerable contribution to the discourse on ‘memory’ in architecture and urban studies, and in particular to broadening the understanding – and reading – of urban space within postcolonial nations.” — Shenuka de Sylva, Asia Pacific Viewpoint

“This fine book has its origins in a series of essays published in the aftermath of the May 1998 rioting in Jakarta and the birth of the post-Suharto era, the product of the so-called reformasi. . . . Photos and line drawings feature
among some 60 illustrations, and there is a comprehensive bibliography, which includes, as might be expected, Indonesian and Dutch works. . . . I would highly recommend this book overall. . .” — John P. Lea, Architectural Science Review

"This…book demonstrates deep theoretical reflection on a number of different issues around the theme of memory as they are inscribed in material and spatial phenomena…. [Kusno] exposes social challenges that Asian nations deliberately suppress and architectural/urban studies rarely acknowledge." — Anoma Pieris, Comparative Studies in Society and History

The Appearances of Memory offers fresh perspectives and intriguing analyses of the political culture of Indonesia as expressed through architecture, development, spatial relationships, and other facets of urban development in the colonial and national periods. It is further evidence of Abidin Kusno’s unique capacity to probe the inner life of Indonesia’s distinct political culture and to connect it to the structures that give it meaning.” — Christopher Silver, author of Planning the Megacity: Jakarta in the Twentieth Century

“I have always felt that we in Indonesia studies have been unusually lucky in having people thinking at the brink of the discipline, pushing the boundaries of the field. Abidin Kusno is one of those people. The Appearances of Memory is an extraordinary book.” — Rudolf Mrázek, author of A Certain Age: Colonial Jakarta through the Memories of Its Intellectuals


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Abidin Kusno is Associate Professor at the Institute of Asian Research and Faculty Associate of the Department of Art History, Visual Art, and Theory at the University of British Columbia, where he holds a Canada Research Chair in Asian Urbanism and Culture. He is the author of Behind the Postcolonial: Architecture, Urban Space, and Political Cultures in Indonesia.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1


1. Whither Nationalist Urbanism? Public Life in Governor Sutiyoso's Jakarta 25

2. The Regime, the Busway, and the Construction of Urban Subjects in an Indonesian Metropolis 49

3. "Back to the City": Urban Architecture in the New Indonesia 71

Remembering and Forgetting

4. Glodok on Our Minds: Chinese Culture and the Forgetting of the May Riots 101

5. The Afterlife of the Empire Style, Indische Architectuur, and Art Deco 125


6. Colonial Cities in Motion: Urban Symbolism and Popular Radicalism 155

7. Urban Pedagogy: The Appearance of Order and Normality in Late Colonial Java, 1926–42 182

Mental Nebulae

8. "The Reality of One-Which-Is-Two": Java's Reception of Global Islam 203

9. Guardian of Memories: The Gardu in Urban Java 223

Notes 279

Bibliography 313

Index 327
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4647-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4655-5
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