Socially-engaged theatre performances in contemporary Indonesia

Tamara Aberle

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis argues that performances of contemporary theatre in Indonesia are sociallyengaged, actively creating, defining and challenging the socio-political environment, and that theatre practitioners are important members of a vibrant civil society who contribute and feel actively committed to democratic processes. Following an initial chapter about the history of modern theatre from the late 19th century until the fall of President Suharto in 1998, the four
core chapters centre on four different aspects of contemporary Indonesian socio-politics: historical memory and trauma, violence and human rights, environmentalism, and social transition. Each of these chapters is preceded by an introduction about the wider historical and socio-political context of its respective discourse and is followed by an analysis of selected plays. Chapter 2 focuses on historical trauma and memory, and relates the work of two theatre artists, Papermoon Puppet Theatre and Agus Nur Amal (a.k.a. PM Toh), to
processes seeking truth and reconciliation in Indonesia in the post-Suharto era. Chapter 3, on violence and human rights, discusses the works of Ratna Sarumpaet and B. Verry Handayani, with a specific focus on human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and labour migration. Chapter 4 discusses environmentalism on the contemporary stage. It investigates the nature of
environmental art festivals in Indonesia, taking Teater Payung Hitam’s 2008 International Water Festival as an example. It also contrasts a recent performance by Teater Payung Hitam with the work of teaterStudio Indonesia. Finally, Chapter 5 focuses on theatre practitioners’ engagement with political, social and cultural transition. It examines works from Teater Garasi, a group whose performances deal with friction, identity loss and change, commenting
on a society in transition.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Cohen, Matthew, Supervisor
Award date1 Oct 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014


  • theatre and performance
  • Southeast Asia
  • Indonesia

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