Dr Steven Farram – 2022

Pahlawan, Pengkhianat atau Penjahat; Hero, Traitor or Villain: A Personal Journey through Indonesian History

History offers many examples of individuals who have been considered by some groups to be heroes, only to be relegated to the ranks of traitors or villains at a later stage, or by a different group. This paper concerns Indonesian heroes, traitors and villains from different regions and eras encountered through the author’s own teaching and research. The factors that influence categorisation of individuals as hero or villain, and contradictions that often remain when such judgements are made, are examined. Examples include regional leaders who opposed the Dutch East India Company or collaborated with it, or sometimes both. Similar cases are examined from the period of the Netherlands Indies colonial state. Also discussed are nationalists who were members of the Indonesian Communist Party, and people now deemed heroes who collaborated with the Japanese during the Second World War. Next for consideration are individuals involved in Confrontation with Malaysia and the occupation of East Timor. The last cases come from the world of popular music and show how performers idolised by their fans can be considered villains by others and even find themselves in prison.

Dr Steven Farram
Senior Lecturer in North Australian and Regional Studies (History), College of Indigenous Futures, Education and the Arts
Charles Darwin University


Steven Farram is Senior Lecturer in North Australian and Regional Studies (History) at Charles Darwin University (CDU). He completed his PhD in 2004 on the topic of the political history of West Timor, 1901-1967. His research interests include the history of northern Australia and Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia and Timor-Leste. He also has a strong interest in the 1960s popular culture of the region, especially music. Steven has published extensively in these areas and is also a regular contributor of book and exhibition reviews to various journals. His most recent publications include: ‘Australia and the 1947 United Nations Consular Commission to Indonesia’ (2020); ‘Social and Political Dimensions of 1980s East Timorese Popular Music’ (2020); ‘The Tiwi of Melville Island, the Portuguese of Timor, and slavery’ (2022, forthcoming); and Paolo Fabris and Steven Farram, Wild Dogs of Song: Palmerston (Darwin) Dingo Glee Club, 1895-1905 (2022, forthcoming).