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(Book Review Part II)
Frederick had many argumentative points to this book but, his main argument is that the Indonesian revolution was not a sudden or explosive kind of change that happened over a short period. He is also trying to tell readers that no other Indonesian experienced the revolution as those did in Surabaya. Frederick’s structure is very chronological and event oriented as if he is tracing events to repercussions. Some of which can be seen with great detail, whereas others seem to be untraceable. I don’t think one can look at these events in a chronological order, especially from a single city in eastern Java and come to the conclusion that particular city was the heart of action. There needs to be more information from other sources and from other people than just those from Surabaya. Also, during his interviews, Frederick explains the topic of communism was avoided due to fears of targeted violence and persecution. He states that his work is unprecedented as no one has ever thought of looking in Surabaya as he has. A better understanding of the Indonesian communist party should be considered in this book, despite the lack of available sources.
I agree that Surabaya has experiences that were different than other locations, but I do not think that Frederick can make a broad generalization such as that, without further research outside Surabaya. The fact that most of his sources come from three locations: oral sources in Surabaya, Dutch and Indonesian archives, and work from other researchers, is very weak. Frederick needs to broaden his outlook and search for other sources of knowledge about this even, not just in Surabaya.
I am not sold on Frederick’s statement where he says that Surabaya was the headquarters of the Indonesian revolution. It took the whole nation of Indonesia to work toward independence which could not have been achieved by Surabaya alone. It feels like he needed to pick a good location to do research which led him to Surabaya. His limited on-the-ground experience in this particular city led him to base his research on this sole idea.
There are some apparent strengths and weaknesses while reading through Frederick’s research of what he calls one of the great world revolutions. I like the idea of studying the Indonesian revolution on a smaller scale as this book does, even if you can not get a broad spectrum on the event. But despite it’s lack of support, this is a significant contribution to the many other works on revolt in Southeast Asia especially in Indonesia. One can read a general history of Indonesia and learn of many events but without this research performed in Surabaya, one cannot grasp the true understanding of the revolution’s impact on villages and society. I really like the fact that he focuses on the revolution being a long on-going moment in history instead of a large revolt happening over a few weeks. I would be curious to read research from the perspective of Batavia or central Java.
(Book Review Part I)
Visions and Heat: The Making of the Indonesian Revolution by William H. Frederick looks at the Indonesian revolution of 1945 from the perspective of those living in east Java’s Surabaya. Frederick covers a lot of ground when jumping into the late colonial rule of the Dutch in Indonesia. First, he explains that societal structure was one of the most influential factors to revolution. The Priyayi, or “elite” of what would be later known as Indonesia, were those locals appointed to influential positions and were not related by blood. Once the Dutch invaded the land, the Priyayi were then replaced with Pangreh Praja, who were native that were educated by the Dutch. This education changed the mindsets of Indonesian and allowed women to later formed groups which influenced the spread of women’s independence.
The Dutch then surrendered to the Japanese handing over the land with hopes that rules and regulations would still remain as when the Dutch were in power. However, the Japanese gave Indonesians more liberties than before; such as removing segregation that was put into place from the Dutch. This allowed Indonesians the ability to participate in activities that were previously banned; such as watching movies in Dutch theaters. After the liberties were granted soon the new Priyayi wanted more representation under Japanese occupation, especially in political participation. The Japanese seemed to welcome this movement by segregating the youth from the Priyayi so that Japanese ideology would grow in the upcoming generation. The youth subjected to this segregation, began to quarrel with the educated Priyayi because of the new ideology the Japanese were implementing, thus driving them for independence even further. Locals began to unit even stronger because of the separation the Dutch and Japanese had instilled into society.
Indonesia finally gained independence on 17 August 1945 with great support of the local people. This was a birth of a nation and Indonesians were able to channel all of their energy as Indonesian nationals. Committees chose new powers so that previous elites would not come into power. The Japanese were to stay, however, in Indonesia while the allies were on their way to ensure peace. A constitution was then formed to make police policies as revolts were rising throughout the new country. Only two months later the battle of Surabaya occurred where hundreds of bombs were dropped on the city causing ninety percent of the population of Surabaya to flee the area. This fighting happened over three weeks resulting in many deaths and much destruction within the city.
Many other books have been written on the study of the Indonesian revolution. There is an important link with other published articles and literature. Among those authors are scholars who have travelled to Java with the common purpose of interviewing people and reading through original archive records. Fredrick supports those other authors by doing the same. Some of his main ideas were that Indonesia lacked political uniformity before independence was gained. He argues that these events had become widely known throughout the country prior to his research. He mentions the idea that the Japanese failed colonizing in the region of Indonesia but this event helped Indonesia to successfully contribute to a much larger revolution in Southeast Asia.
New Priyayi and the Question of Change
Colonial Transition and the Urban Response
New Priyayi and Youth in the Japanese Order
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