Keepers of the Grave: Ritual Guides, Ghosts and Hidden Narratives in Indonesian History
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【演講摘要About the Talk】
Within Javanese culture, the juru kunci or gate keeper is an essential intermediary between the dead and the living. Devotees often approach these individuals to enjoy the fruits of divine blessings especially in visits to the graves of Muslim saints. These gate keepers, according to scholars, also form a bridge between the past and present, acting as living ‘archives’ filled with oral historical accounts of legendary and historical figures. More importantly these gate keepers are part of a wider spectrum where they serve as intermediaries between those seeking supernatural favours and spirits which inhabit ‘potent’ landscapes. Such potent sites include suspected mass graves of between 500,000 to one million individuals alleged dissidents whom during the 1965 pogroms of the Indonesian Communist Party, were incarcerated and ‘disappeared’ all across the Indonesian archipelago.
But as public discussions over the existence of Indonesia’s killing fields grows, these sites are also increasingly becoming important repositories of an unspoken history. This paper investigates the role played by the juru kunci of several mass graves specifically in central Java. It asks: how do these keepers of the grave, through their connection with the ghostly presence of their former comrades elucidate a past which continues to be silenced in Indonesia? As former communists and political detainees themselves these gate keepers have taken on the role of not only keeping the ‘spirit’ of their fellow communists alive but to also allow their ‘voices’ to speak through them. Through contact with the souls of executed dissidents, these gate keepers utilize an ethereal ‘connection’ as way to to subvert the state’s enforced silence over the 1965 pogroms as well as their subsequent stigmatization. These gate keepers serve as important custodians of an important part of Indonesia’s history and provide the necessary oral historical material for a localized form of ‘reconciliation’. I posit that the case study of these gate keepers allows us to understand such processes from a micro perspective which larger grander narratives have largely ignored.