This book is about young people inhabiting a radical position in time and
space, breaking up the malignant calm of an authoritarian regime in small and
massive ways. It is mostly about university students, but other youth and social
types are present as well. It takes place in Indonesia, an archipelago of more
than nineteen thousand islands, the fourth largest country in the world, with
the largest Muslim population. It takes place against Suharto’s New Order re-
gime, which lasted from 1966 to 1998. Most important, it takes place in the
shadow of violence, structural, epistemological, and physical.
Indonesia’s transition to democracy was marked by a series of unresolved
acts of violence, martyrdoms, and popular push- back. These pages give the
dates and events that formed the context of violence for activist lives and de-
cisions during a particularly intense period of confrontation between the state
and civilians. My book was never going to be an exhaustive history of Refor-
masi or of the various groups that composed the movement itself; others have
done it better than I could. Nor do I take a hardboiled, whodunnit approach
to confront the conspiracy theories that follow whenever violence occurs in
Indonesia. Yet I think it important to show readers what regime change looks
like, and how the cumulative effect of violence begets the traces of fear, mem-
ory, and adrenaline that lurk in the smallest spaces and in the most ordinary
The events in the list that follows serve as a historical primer for the vio-
lence that shaped the student movement’s experience of the Indonesian state
and gave youth a vocabulary to talk about injustice. The list is select, as most
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