(P81) When the War Was Over: Trajectories of former combatants in Southeast Asia
Thu 15:30-17:00 K12 | 2.15
- Peter Keppy NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies
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Dust of the revolution. Representations of former freedom fighters in early 1950s Indonesian motion pictures.
Peter Keppy NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies
In their article on 1950s Indonesian cinema Dag Yngvesson and Adrian Alarilla (2020) have recently noted that ”Indonesia’s emergent writer-directors adapted the modern medium of cinema not only to envision, but to continually trouble and question the viability of the Jakarta-centred ‘unity in diversity’ called for by President Soekarno”. They do not fail to note that: “The figure of the confused, maladjusted or criminalized pedjuang (former freedom fighter[s]) is a consistent theme that runs through the films of the 1950s and early 1960s. While acknowledging the general observation that Indonesian filmmakers critiqued their society and the nation-state and the way it was imagined and shaped by its political leaders, I take a slightly different turn in my paper. The argument is that filmmakers as well as wider sections of Indonesian society depicted former freedom fighters as a particular troublesome socially liminal category exactly because this group represented the ambiguities of a hard won sovereignty from the Dutch. Former combatants’ pride for having served the new nation was accompanied by shame, guilt over past violence and feelings of social injustice. Moreover, in the immediate post-colonial age, former combatants came to be associated with crime and insurgency. People also regarded them and also as parasites depending on state patronage and privileges complicating their image as heroes of the revolution.
Farmers, Soldiers, and Ghostheads: From agriculture to combat to detection in the minefields of Cambodia
Darcie DeAngelo University of Oklahoma
Today, Cambodian veterans describe a series of shifting loyalties that occurred over decades of civil war. When one army took over a regime, its generals conscripted villagers who had been fighting on the opposite side. In these armies, villagers-turned-soldiers installed millions of landmines in their country’s soil. Nowadays, the landmines must be unearthed safely and many of these soldiers find employment disarming the country. But the stigma of war and death and the distrust of state authorities throw even acts of demining the country under a shadow of suspicion. Villagers equate deminers with the violence of soldiers. Indeed, sometimes the state deploys these deminers to enforce border patrols and land grabs. Likewise, the demining platoons (as they are called) often have people who have undergone multiple conscriptions, resulting in teams where former enemies must learn to work together. This paper profiles typical career trajectories for deminers, assessing their transitions from civilian to military to post conflict lives. Drawing from ethnographic data among deminers, it considers how legacies of the past find purchase in stigmas the deminers face as well as the ongoing state violence villagers face such as landgrabbing and forced migration. It considers the potential for increasing state legitimacy and decreasing the stigma of former combatants through demining, but also acknowledges the current atmospheres of suspicion even in the field of disarmament.
From veterans to temple guardians: the spiritual economy of postwar reintegration among former combatants in Vietnam
Dat Nguyen NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Tam Ngo NIOD/MPI
Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, Vietnamese war veterans had to navigate shifting political, socio-economic, and cultural climates, as they endeavored to establish their life in the post-war context. While the Vietnamese Communist state has implemented a series of welfare policies to assist former combatants, war veterans followed different trajectories toward social reintegration. In this paper, we foreground one element often overlooked in veterans’ experiences with and narratives of post-war integration, namely religion. Drawing on the case studies of two veterans who became leaders in two popular religious establishments in northern and southern Vietnam we examine how engagement in religious activities and networks can figure prominently in veterans’ efforts to gain socio-cultural and political capital, on the one hand, and how figures of war heroes and combatants have been drawn into local religious imagination by different actors to forge alternative modalities of citizenship, on the other. Through these examinations, we contribute to the scholarly conversations on post-war reintegration by elucidating the formative role that religion plays in post-colonial, post-war social reconstruction and nation-building (van de Veer 1994; 2013), particularly as it provides veterans with the agentive power to solidify and establish their socio-political standings after the war.
We invite scholars from various disciplinary backgrounds to focus on political and social trajectories of former combatants after regime change, particularly in the wake of wars of decolonization. This panel takes issue with some of the taken-for-granted concepts in the literature on Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) and that of so-called Security Sector Reform (SSR). The aftermaths of struggles for independence and civil wars have been notoriously neglected in the
literature on DDR and SSR. In mainstream literature the idea of ‘reintegration’ or, in popular parlance, the ‘return to society’ of former combatants and freedom fighters, either from regular armies or militia and insurgents, is too often taken for granted . Through case studies from the ground up, rather than a state or policy-oriented research perspectives, this panel aims to challenge notions concerning the state, state-building, and citizenship and to examine what “reintegration” actually means. In trying to challenge the limits of more policy-driven analyses, we hope to demonstrate that former combatants had agency, organized themselves and were able to eke out a living and, in some cases, developed a sense of belonging and community in the absence of official DDR-policies and official state-presences. In this sense, we hope to uncover obscured narratives of trajectories of actual people who are often reduced to ‘spoilers’, i.e. those who frustrate post-war transitions, or those who seem to be able to cope, i.e. ‘adaptors’. Instead, this panel will focus on the liminal context of transition,
beyond such diametric categories.
A panel bringing together these cases would be a valuable contribution to discussions on the impact of war on society more generally, and more specifically to studies on political violence in post-war situations in former colonized regions, war veterans and on the literature on DDR and SSR in nonwestern societies. A book from this particular historical- nthropological perspective has yet to be written