Thursday, October 14, 2010

SEMINAR: Surfing's Final Frontier: Discovering Paradise in Suharto's Indonesia



Speaker: Dr Scott Laderman (University of Minnesota)

This paper will examine American and Australian surfers’ embrace of
Indonesian tourism – and their assistance to the Suharto regime in opening
up the archipelago to Western travelers – shortly after the violent events
of 1965 that brought Suharto to power. Indonesia, which in the 1950s had
been a leading Third World proponent of nonalignment in the broader Cold
War struggle, became, by the mid- to late-1960s, a staunch American ally
in Washington’s ideological competition with China and the Soviet Union.
It was in 1965 that Indonesia’s neutralist Sukarno government was
overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup that culminated in the deaths of hundreds
of thousands of people. The C.I.A., in a 1968 study, characterized this
carnage as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century.” In the
decades that followed, Indonesia stood out as a leading recipient of U.S.
military aid and diplomatic support, whether in Jakarta’s brutal and
consistent suppression of internal dissent or in its 1975 invasion and
genocidal occupation of East Timor.

It was also in the late 1960s and early 1970s that Indonesia began to
capture the attention of American and Australian surfers who discovered
amidst its thousands of islands some of the finest waves in the world.
Surfing magazines regularly published features on Indonesian “surfaris”
across the archipelago, while filmmakers captured the country’s waves and
people in productions ranging from Morning of the Earth (1971), Uluwatu
(1976), and Bali High (1981) to Storm Riders (1982) and Tales of the Seven
Seas (1981). In such features, whether print or filmic, the nation was
represented not as a site of dictatorship and state repression – which was
how too many Indonesians experienced life in their country – but, rather,
as an exotic paradise with primitive locals who celebrated the American
and Australian surfers’ interest in their homeland.

Part of a larger book project on surfing, surf culture, and U.S. foreign
relations, “Surfing’s Final Frontier” will examine this discursive erasure
and surfers’ collaboration with the Suharto regime, illustrating how the
touristic impulse that is intrinsic to the sport of surfing has inevitably
been imbued with political meaning.

Scott Laderman is an assistant professor of history at the University of
Minnesota, Duluth. The author of Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides,
and Memory (2009), his work has appeared in several edited collections and
in the Pacific Historical Review, the International Journal of
Contemporary Iraqi Studies, and a number of other publications.

Time and Date: 5:15 PM, Monday, 25 October
Location: Ecclesiastical History Room, Institute of Historical Research,
Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.

All are welcome. For more information, please contact Dion Georgiou, at

No comments: