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A Certain Age: Colonial Jakarta Through the Memories of Its Intellectuals

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A Certain Age

Colonial Jakarta Through the Memories of Its Intellectuals

By Rudolf Mrazek

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Format: Paperback / softback, 328 pages
Other Information: 6 illustrations
Published In: United States, 25 May 2010
"A Certain Age" is an unconventional, evocative work of history and a series of moving reflections on memory, modernity, space and time, and the limitations of traditional historical narratives. Throughout the 1990s, Rudolf Mrazek visited Indonesia, where he recorded lengthy interviews with elderly intellectuals in and around Jakarta. With few exceptions, they were part of an urban elite born under colonial rule and educated at Dutch schools. Since the early twentieth century, through the late colonial era and national revolution, and well into independence after 1945, these intellectuals were prominent in Jakarta, where they injected their ideas of modernity, progress, and freedom into local and national discussion. When he began his interviews, Mrazek expected to discuss phenomena such as the transition from colonialism to postcolonialism. His interviewees wanted to share more personal recollections. Their stories form the backbone of "A Certain Age". Fragments of their conversations are embedded in descriptions of the locations where the interviews were conducted. Mrazek brings to bear insights from thinkers including Walter Benjamin, Bertold Brecht, Le Corbusier, and Marcel Proust, and from his own reflections on looking back at his youth in communist Czechoslovakia two decades after the end of communist rule. Architectural and spatial tropes organize the book. Thresholds, windowsills, and sidewalks come to seem more apt as descriptors of historical transitions than colonial and postcolonial or modern and postmodern. Asphalt-covered surfaces, homes, classrooms, fences, and windows organize movement, perceptions, and selves in relation to others. "A Certain Age" is a portal into questions about how the past informs the present and how historical accounts are inevitably partial and incomplete.

Promotional Information

An ethnographic study of Jakarta, derived from the author's interviews with the city's elderly residents.

Table of Contents

Preface: Promenades ix Technical Note xv 1. Bypasss and Flyovers 1 2. The Walls 25 3. The Fences 73 4. The Classroom 125 5. The Window 187 Postscript. Sometimes Voices 235 Notes 253 Bibliography 293 Index 303

About the Author

Rudolf Mrazek is Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author of several books, including Engineers of Happy Land: Technology and Nationalism in a Colony; Sjahrir: Politics and Exile in Indonesia, 1906-1966; and Bali: The Split Gate to Heaven.


"...a subtle, layered, and subversive book, with its deep reflections on the powers of memory and the interpenetrations of past and present. Mrazek has achieved what very few academics are capable of: in recording his encounters with these remarkable Indonesians, he has incidentally inscribed in these pages a most endearing portrait of himself. Read it, whether or not you already have any addiction to Indonesia, or to life stories." - Roxana Waterson, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, August 2012 "In this original and very exciting work Rudolf Mrazek offers a stimulating way of thinking about historiography and a radical departure from the ways 'we in the field' are used to thinking and talking about the history of Indonesia. A rich text, resistant to generalizations, A Certain Age is evocative, moving, personal, disruptive, and subversive. It is a must-read." - Henk Maier, author of We Are Playing Relatives "By juxtaposing Indonesian and European voices, Rudolf Mrazek compels us to reconsider the unsettling origins and effects of modernity in the colony and metropole alike. In his nuanced, brilliantly edited interviews, aging urban revolutionaries remember the past amid and in relation to the noise of the street and the neighborhood, the music of salons and cinemas, the stuttering bursts of translations and trains, and the routine hum of the prison camp and the classroom. They convey the force of a history that remains bound to--yet is not reducible to--narration and analysis." - Vicente L. Rafael, author of The Promise of the Foreign

EAN: 9780822346975
ISBN: 0822346974
Publisher: Duke University Press
Dimensions: 22.86 x 15.24 x 2.29 centimetres (0.51 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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