Interview with American Association of University Women
Intan Paramaditha, a 2007–08 International Fellow from Indonesia, began conducting background research for her dissertation in cinema studies at New York University in 2007. As a published author and former literature professor at the University of Jakarta, Intan wanted to shift her attention to Indonesian cinema, which is “largely absent in the global academic discourse.” Her dissertation analyzes how cultural production has changed in Indonesia since the end of the Suharto regime in 1998. In particular, she is studying the political practices of a new generation of Indonesian filmmakers.
Before writing her dissertation proposal, Intan traveled frequently between the United States and Indonesia, gathering data in Jakarta and at U.S. centers for Southeast Asian studies. After defending her proposal in 2009, Intan returned to Indonesia for a year of research, but this homecoming has been perplexing : “Returning home as a researcher is not a simple project,” says Intan. As a longtime member of the Indonesian artistic community, she is “always haunted by the question of my engagement with people.”
In September 2009 a bill censoring films in Indonesia was passed and approved by the country’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The law, which censors depictions of sexuality and scenes evoking ethnic, religious, and class tensions, resembles an outdated film law enacted in 1992 under the authoritarian regime led by then-president Haji Muhammad Suharto. Some Indonesian filmmakers have protested, saying that the law is an attempt by the state to police the film industry.
Intan attended meetings held by filmmakers and film activists as an observer, and she took notes on the hearing convened by the House of People’s Representatives and shared them with others. However, as she became more involved in the issues, she started to speak out about the new film law and to help prepare for the law’s judicial review in constitutional court.
In December Intan organized a symposium with the goal of mapping out Indonesian artistic performances that have been staged in the country since the end of the Suharto regime. Her role in creating the “performance map” has become more complex as she struggles to determine where she fits: “As a part of the post-Suharto generation, I am a part of the map. As a fiction writer, the production and reception of my work have been influenced by post-1998 Indonesian literary circles.”
As her involvement has grown with the swell of activism in the Indonesian artistic community, Intan says she finds it hard at times to step back and reflect: “What’s equally important for me now is how, as a scholar, I could be involved in strategy-making projects. I’m studying cultural policy not for my dissertation research per se but to propose changes.”