Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Remembering a Deathly Dance

Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Remembering a Deathly Dance

Article excerpt

Remembering a Deathly Dance Rachmi Diyah Larasati's The Dance That Makes You Vanish: Cultural Reconstruction in Post-genocide Indonesia, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013

Larasati's The Dance That Makes You Vanish: Cultural Reconstruction in Postgenocide Indonesia is haunted with memory. Analyzing the rise of Suharto's Cold War right-wing regime in Indonesia (1965-89), Larasati uncovers the hidden violence of the state: the disappearance and genocide of artists and cultural practitioners-especially women-and, in the wake of that violence, the production of dance replicas who perform for the nation and its global alliances. Jumping across time and space and between memoir and analysis, practice and theory, The Dance That Makes You Vanish is a compelling and ambitious ethnography that draws on dance theory and history, performance studies, and transnational feminist cultural studies.

Individual memory rubs against national myth-making to craft a "structural resistance" to Suharto's rise and his regime-the New Order. Drawing on the cultural studies of Edward Said, Larasati is the critic, an "alchemical translator of texts into circumstantial reality or worldliness" (Said 1975, 4). The Dance That Makes You Vanish is a fight against the amnesia organized by the state, where dance as a practice of self-making becomes a means of conveniently "forgetting" one's history and buttressing the state's impunity. As Larasati states, "As I became more practiced in the forms required for official dancers, I began to forget about the people I knew who had disappeared" (xviii). In response, her method is rooted in remembering: her dance training in Indonesia, her performance as a civil servant and touring state dancer in Cambodia, and her current role as a Western-educated dance practitioner and scholar in the American academy. Influenced by the transnational feminist work of Gayatri Spivak and Caren Kaplan, Larasati unfolds the process and concealment of territorialization and imperialism forwarded on and through womens bodies.

Her premise is that prior to 1965 and Suhartos ascendance, cultural construction in the immediate postcolonial era staged a cooperation of different ethnic and cultural practices, allowing for multiple class-based practices to be shared and permitting flexibility in the representation of tradition. …

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