Depoliticisation and Repoliticisation in Post-Colonial Indonesian Film Adaptations




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


This study investigates the depoliticisation and repoliticisation in post-colonial Indonesian film adaptations, primarily focusing on Blood and Crown of the Dancer (1983) and The Dancer (2011), the two adaptations of Ahmad Tohari’s novel The Dancer (1982). The investigation is motivated by a series of problems in adaptation studies, namely, the hegemony of Anglo-American texts, the domination of former British colonies in post-colonial adaptation, and the homogenising construct of the East versus the West in most post-colonial criticism. The novel and the film adaptations recount the long, internal struggles between the military and civil society in the Dutch former colony after the independence. What is prevalent yet forgotten in those works and the domestic conflicts that they emulate is the practices of depoliticisation and politicisation, which have regularly been associated with, respectively, the denial of politics by the military regime and the corruption of ‘apolitical’ realms by its political enemies. This thesis aims to show that the depoliticisation and politicisation in the novel and the adaptations are much more subtle and complex than imagined. Incorporating Flinders and Wood’s theory of depoliticisation, Foucault’s principle of discourse, and Bourdieu’s account of capital, the investigation attempts to capture the discursive depoliticisation and politicisation in the texts as well as the interrelated governmental, societal, and personal factors in adaptation.

Although the thesis is structured by the three texts, each chapter draws equal attention to the contexts, subjects, and audiences of each work and scrutinises all of them through the lenses of depoliticisation and repoliticisation. The analysis shows that the depoliticisation and politicisation in the texts generally correspond with those in the governmental, societal, private arenas in their respective eras, particularly on the problems of politics, religion, and sexuality. The novel and the first adaptation embody the typical depoliticisation during the Indonesian military era (1966-1998) in which subversive discourses and practices could surface only as a pretext/justification for the regime’s suppression. The second adaptation, however, signifies the heavy politicisation in the early post-military era (1998-2004) and the subtle depoliticisation in the subsequent time in that it simultaneously interrogates and adapts ‘faithfully’ the issues and the conflicting parties in the informing texts and contexts.

Although the case studies are rather specific, the chosen texts and approach allow the thesis to deal with broader issues related to the socio-political history of Indonesia, the literary and filmic discourses and practices, and, in relation to the missing first film adaptation, the cultural status of adaptation studies and practices in the country. Despite their obvious focus on domestic affairs, there are traces of Hollywood’s depoliticising models in both adaptations due to the long, predominant influence of American cinema in Indonesia. This fusion of intracultural and intercultural elements, the transdisciplinary political approach, and the insight from the invisible post-colonial country are the major contributions of the thesis to adaptation studies and post-colonial adaptation.





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