2013 年 30 巻 p. 73-88
Interest in personal narratives and life histories has been growing in recent years, but attention to this form of research material in anthropology has always been patchy. As an anthropologist with long experience of fieldwork in Indonesia (specifically with the Sa'dan Toraja people of South Sulawesi), I realized that some of my older acquaintances who were born near the beginning of the twentieth century had lived extraordinary lives. They had experienced all the dramatic social transformations accompanying successive political developments as Indonesia moved from colonialism, through wartime occupation by the Japanese and the struggle for Independence, to the emergence of a new nation-state. The possibility of identifying as “Indonesian” developed along the way as well. I became interested in the potentials of life narratives – not just of the famous, but of ordinary people - to provide insights into the interface between personal experience and great historical events, and to contribute to a more “autonomous” history, rich in indigenous perspectives, as John Smail, a dedicated historian of Indonesia, proposed was urgently needed in his oft-cited essay of 1961. My edited volume, Southeast Asian Lives: Personal Narratives and Historical Experience (Singapore University Press/Ohio University Press, 2007), draws together several such life narratives, as recounted and reflected upon by anthropologists working in different regions of Southeast Asia, with a view to exploring more fully the potentials of this kind of research for social scientists. In this article, I focus on the several remarkable Indonesian life narratives presented there, as well as a range of other recently published works in this genre, and discuss their contributions to a history and anthropology that seek to do justice to indigenous personal experience.