Secular, religious and supernatural: an Eastern Indonesian Catholic experience of fear (autoethnographic reflections on the reading of a New Order-era propaganda text)
AuthorWejak, Justin Laba
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2017 Dr. Justin Laba Wejak
This thesis examines an Eastern Indonesian Catholic experience of fear by analysing how a New Order-era propaganda text dealing with the political upheavals of 1965-66 triggers and maintains fear in one Eastern Indonesian Catholic reader – myself. It uses the methodology of autoethnography to examine the fears that I myself experienced in 2004 when encountering a 1967 Catholic propaganda text entitled, ‘Dari Madiun ke Lubang Buaya, dari Lubang Buaya ke…?’ [From Madiun to the Crocodile Hole, from the Crocodile Hole to...?]). By analysing my own experience of fear in reading the text, I argue that the Eastern Indonesian Catholic experience of fear involves three interlocking dimensions – secular, religious and supernatural. These three forms of fear are experienced simultaneously by the reader (myself). The From Madiun text is primarily a secular narrative of the 1965-66 events, but the reader brings his culturally-conditioned religious and supernatural fears when reading it. I argue that supernatural fear is the most unspoken but most powerful form of fear that I experienced when reading the text, and this reflects my membership of the Lamaholot community in which supernatural fear is pervasive. The thesis contends that in relation to 1965, the Catholic Church’s propaganda created an explicit secular fear of communists, an implicit religious fear of Muslims, and a hidden supernatural fear of ghosts. While secular fear represented the nemesis of secularization and a danger to the Indonesian nation-state and to the Catholic Church was the most overt form of fear that the Catholic Church directed against communists, the most profound fears which the Church was able to instill in its members were religious and supernatural forms of fear. These three forms of fear are experienced simultaneously, and the fear of 1965 is not therefore simply a matter of the past, but also of the present. Eliminating the secular threat of communism in 1966 increased the religious threat of Islam and multiplied the supernatural threat from ghosts, which remain very strong in contemporary Lamaholot society. The thesis thus relates the fear of 1965 to the cultural belief systems of my Lamaholot community, belief systems that maintain the fear of 1965 to the present day.
Keywordsfear; 1965; Indonesia; Catholicism; supernatural; communism; Islam; autoethnography
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