Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia

Ira Katznelson writes:

May 20 is marked each year in Indonesia as the Day of National Awakening. It commemorates the founding in 1908 of Budi Utomo, a nationalist organisation created by Javanese in their late teens and early twenties at the Western-type medical school in Batavia, colonial capital of the Netherlands Indies. These founders were drawn from a tiny protoélite, numbering just over a thousand, who had been educated at Dutch-language primary schools. Budi Utomo’s leader, an East Javanese named Soetomo, soon became a significant nationalist intellectual. Late in life, he wrote Kenang-Kenangan (Memories), the first autobiography of its kind in Indonesia.

(LRB 7 November 1991)

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