The Transgenerational Transmission of Memories about May ’98 among Chinese Indonesians in Jakarta: Preliminary Findings | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


The paper examines how the memories of the anti-Chinese riots in May 1998 are transmitted from one generation to the second generation of Chinese Indonesians in Jakarta. We consider the first generation to be those who experienced the violent episode themselves, while the second generation consists of those who were either at a very young age or were yet to be born in 1998. In our study, these two generations are not necessarily part of the same family. In so doing, we are interested in how the autobiographical memories of May 1998 are transmitted by the first generation to the second generation and become part of the collective memory that structures the collective identity of Chinese-Indonesians. The research is based on in-depth interviews and focus-group discussions. We focus on narratives that are being told and re-told in Chinese-Indonesian families, at the imprints of the traumatic experiences on the behavioral schemes of the first and second generations, and at the meaningful silences. We found that the legacy of May 98 is not only in the form of stories of what the first generation experienced in May 98 but in the form of “life lessons” on how to navigate the social world as a member of the minority group. Inadvertently, these parental lessons reproduce the social distance between Chinese Indonesians and the non-Chinese, and the weak presence of the Chinese-Indonesians in politics.


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