Event — Webinar

Translating the Communist Manifesto in Indonesia 1923-25

An online interactive lecture by Oliver Crawford, Research Fellow at IIAS.

The lecture will take place from 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Amsterdam Time (Central European Summer Time, CEST).

This talk offers a new perspective on the reception of Marxism in Indonesia by examining the first Indonesian translations of The Communist Manifesto (1923 and 1925), exploring how Indonesian translators sought to make the text intelligible for an audience unfamiliar with European history and Western political philosophy.

The first Indonesian translations of The Communist Manifesto, made in 1923 and 1925, translated Marx and Engels’s text from Dutch and German into Malay, the lingua franca of the Indonesian archipelago. These translations brought European and Indonesian political languages into contact, breaking down the barriers built up by Dutch colonial authorities to keep radical European political texts away from vernacular languages. The resulting translations made The Communist Manifesto comprehensible to Indonesian readers by localising the text’s language, turning kings into rajahs and priests into ulama (Islamic scholars). At the same time, these translations introduced Indonesians to European Marxist concepts, turning workers into ‘proletarians’ and bosses into ‘bourgeoisie’ in a manner that offered a new way of imagining Indonesian society and organising political and economic resistance to colonialism. After 1926, the Dutch colonial government intensified policing and stifled further dissemination of The Communist Manifesto. Translations of Marx and Engels’s text, however, received a new lease of life during the Indonesian Revolution (1945-49) and in the post-war decades, before being partially suppressed once more under the anti-Communist New Order regime which came to power in 1966.

The Speaker

Oliver Crawford is a visiting fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (2019-2020). He completed his PhD in history at Cambridge University in 2019. His thesis was an examination of the political thought of the Indonesian Marxist and revolutionary Tan Malaka. He is currently working on the translation of political texts from European languages into Malay in the early twentieth century.

The Webinar

The lecture will take about 30 minutes. After that, you will have the opportunity to ask questions and engage directly with the speaker and the rest of the audience.


You can join this live webinar by sending us your contact information via the registration form on this page. Two days before the start of the webinar, we will get in touch with you and provide you with access information and other necessary details. We hope to see you on 9 July!

NOTE: Please check your spam box if you can't find our email in your inbox.