ANARCHISM in Indonesia – CNRS funding



The circulation of anarchism in Indonesia – Multimedia tour of an invisible political space



Members (6): Riccardo Ciavolella (Researcher at CNRS, anthropologist, IIAC); Gabriel Facal (Co-founder of Altersea, anthropologist, postdoc CASE); Gloria Truly Estrelita (Co-founder of Altersea, PhD student, Historian, CASE); Sarah Andrieu (Co-director of Altersea, anthropologist, postdoc CASE); AB. Widyanta (lecturer, sociologist, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia); Jim Donaghey (postdoc, Political philosophy, Ulster University, Irland).

Host institutions: Centre Asie du Sud-Est (CASE, UMR 8170); Institut Interdisciplinaire d’Anthropologie du Contemporain (IIAC, UMR 8177) ; ALTERSEA.

Productions targeted: web documentary; Webinars; Publications.

Project period: 1st May 2021-30th June 2022.



This project aims to produce a web documentary, in English (possibly with Klynt software), to be published on Altersea’s Website. It will be carried out by junior, intermediate and experienced researchers, working in complementarity. The material will come from textual and photographic documentary resources, historical archives and interviews conducted online and in-person in Indonesia. It will aim to develop a sustainable digital resource that can be viewed in open access. The content will focus on anarchism, a theme linked to a truncated national collective memory, a phenomenon of internationalist inspiration but rooted locally, and a social fact historically invisibilized by the Indonesian authorities. At the heart of the project is the circulation of anarchist ideas, their local reception, the tinkering and misunderstandings they cause, as well as the modes of action and organization, the memory of events, the testimony of committed trajectories, and cultural productions.


Synopsis of the narration on “Anarchism in Indonesia – an invisible political space”

We will follow the circulation of ideas and modes of action according to its major historical phases:

-1842: influences of anarchism from the Netherlands via Dutch Christian administrators and via Indonesian smugglers who studied there;

– 1909-1929: contributions of anarcho-communism by the Chinese diaspora installed in Indonesia; -1914: formation of the first anarchist groups;

-1920-1945: inter-influences with anti-colonial militants of Marxist, Islamic / Islamist, and nationalist orientation;

-1945-1949: the emergence of the anarcho-syndicalist movement, contributing to the revolutionary effort;

-1949-1965: splits in the face of the growing role of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and the institutionalization of certain militants;

-1965-1998: the eradication of left movements by the regime of President Suharto, with some re-emergent expressions in the late 1980’s-early 1990s;

-1998-2021: spaces of liberation from anarchist ways, internationalization, the emergence of new militant vocations with anarcho-syndicalism, the emancipation of the punk-anarchist movement and mixtures of anarchist fragments in an Islamic tinge.

We will also discuss the treatment of the phenomenon by the authorities, the press and scientific production. In Indonesia, anarchism is equated with a form of popular terrorism, sometimes suspected of being linked to communism, which itself is considered a form of state terrorism. Groups categorized as anarchists suffer persecution and speaking out on the memory and existence of the anarchist movement is still delicate. In this context, the online format and the porting of the project by a non-Indonesian research center should allow greater security for contributors and informants. Additional devices will be used during the investigation, the restitution of the data and their dissemination. The contributors all have proven experience working on sensitive fields and subjects (mafias, jihadism, corruption, police violence, militias) and particularly in the Indonesian context.



The documentary will consist of five parts:

  1. Home page presenting the objectives, plan, contributors, partners and founders.
  2. Page 1 – Memories: presentation of the social history of anarchism in Indonesia, diachronic circulation of key ideas presented cartographically, focus on major figures of the movement. Invitation to watch 4 video interviews and collection of correspondence.
  3. Page 2 – Places: discovery of events and places of action through a slide show. Examples: archive exhibition on the dialogue between anarchists and anti-colonial movements, mini-photo reports on punk-anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists.
  4. Page 3 – Culture: traces and marks of anarchist commitment (drawings, posters and stickers, comics, tattoos, music and concerts extracts, plays, performances and happenings).
  5. Resources: glossary of typical fallacious terms; list of the informants and contributors; educational file for students; video or audio documentary; discography; bibliography; credits.