Anchored in the present, yet with a view to the longue durée, this study queries the role of simulacral spectacle, and its constitutive practices of recursive figuration, in animating scenes of political struggle in Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the enduring entanglements between. 

Centered on a massive, symbolically-charged project of hydro-engineering—designed for Indonesia by the Netherlands—this research examines a constellation of mediatized, theatrical "scenes" of social, ecological, and political contestation with roots in the colonial and authoritarian past. These scenes include: 

  1. the televised mass eviction of an urban village along Jakarta's flooded coast, sandwiched between a thirteenth-century port and the city's last remaining seventeenth-century VOC (Dutch East Indies Company) warehouses
  2. a polemical election crossed with a blasphemy trial, invoking nativist rhetorics of blood and soil, redolent of the racialized categorizations of the colonial order 
  3. the storming of an artificial island slated for luxury real estate by a flotilla of displaced fishers whose waters the new land usurped; 
  4. a viralized, eco-spiritual protest against a transnational cement company's evisceration of a sacred mountain range, wherein female farmers succeeded in seeking audience with the Indonesian president after transforming themselves into sculptural amalgams of woman-concrete-wood
  5. a lurching, long-march protest from Bandung to Jakarta by workers laid-off from the state oil company who, riffing on scenes from 1980s horror films, dressed themselves up as zombies to dramatize the dire conditions of their former employ
  6. a double raid on the national legal aid institute aiming to silence the ostensible "ghosts" of Indonesia's anti-communist massacres of 1965-66, who would not stop singing of a rice-paddy water-weed 
  7. a quadrilingual lawsuit conducted via video link between a courthouse in Den Haag and a cafe in North Sulawesi, adjudicating Dutch violence during the Indonesian Revolution, some 70 years after the fact.

Through focus on the complex dramaturgy of each scene, I examine the ways in which the past presses on the present and the material fuses with the symbolic to uncanny, simulacral and spectral effect. Taken together, these scenes of chronotopic instability and materio-symbolic morass reveal the uncertain stakes of the nation as an iterative, contestational project ever in need of re(con)figuration and renewal.