Mechanics of Mass Murder

Completion Seminar for History PhD Candidate Jess Melvin

School of Historical and Philosophical Studies

The University of Melbourne


Mechanics of Mass Murder: How the Indonesian Military Initiated and Implemented the Indonesian Genocide: The Case of Aceh

On 1 October 1965, the Indonesian military launched an attack against the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). This attack was aimed at seizing state power and sparked one of the 20th century’s worst mass killings. To this day, however, there is yet to be consensus as to whether the Indonesian genocide should be understood as the result of an intentional centralised military campaign.

Through an investigation of 3,000 pages of previously uncited classified documents produced by the Indonesian military and government in Aceh province, and 70 original oral history interviews with former members of the PKI, family members of people killed during the genocide, former military personnel, government officials and members of death squads who participated in the genocide, this thesis aims to strip back the mechanics of mass murder to demonstrate for the first time how the Indonesian military initiated and implemented the Indonesian genocide.

The seminar will be presented in conjunction with the Memory and Commemoration, East and West: An International Workshop (supported by the University of Melbourne IRRTF scheme).

Date: Friday 21 February, 12.15pm-1.15pm

Venue: Theatre 4, Level 1, Alan Gilbert Building (Building 104), corner of Grattan and Barry Streets (enter from Barry St), The University of Melbourne

Rewriting the story of the 1965 tragedy

‘Momentum is currently growing’, notes graduate student Jess Melvin in an article in the Jakarta Post on 30 September, ‘around the need for an historical reckoning of the Indonesian genocide’. Joshua Oppenheimer’s film The Act of Killing has just been released for free download in Indonesia, and Jess argues that an official government apology will be an important part of the reconciliation process.

PhD student Jessica Melvin at the Melbourne International Film Festival

On August 10, PhD candidate Jessica Melvin was a panelist at a talking pictures session co-sponsored by the Melbourne International Film festival and the Indonesia Forum following the screening of the film, The Act of Killing which focuses on the 1965 violence in Indonesia. The event was called ‘Caught in the Act: Indonesia and the Act of Killing’. For some photos of the event see MIFF talkingpictures-caught-in-the-act  For event details see the Indonesia Forum website