History has emerged as an increasingly prominent field of study in Indonesia at least since 1980’s, after being neglected for several decades. New theoretical, philosophical, and empirical analyses of Indonesian history were tought widely at university and appear in professional journals and books.
At the same time, a new generation of students and young scholars in a variety of fields was being made aware of the interrelationship between their fields with history. Above all however, there are growing doubts about the truth of Indonesian history at any level of society following current political changes after the resignation of Soeharto in May 1998. Indonesian history is considered primarily as a product of social and political engineering of the New Order rather than an appropriate scholarly apparatus. Consequently, Indonesian historiography is no longer appreciated and people are simply asking for a new history, a deconstructed history.
The most vocal and trenchant criticism of existing historiography, however, has come not from within historian community. This is an irony. The need to deconstruct contemporary Indonesian history is not an important issue in academic or professional historian community. The polemic took place mostly in daily newspapers, popular weekly magazines, or tabloids rather than in highly recognised historian forum. Most prominent historians at the university obviously had chosen a different path from the one which was being led by recent popular viewpoint. Instead, politicians, journalists, and other social-humanities scholars took over the place of historians in discussing the truth of the past.
Many students have changed, though. They are empowered by the internet, searching out their own answers and bringing these into class discussions, according to both media reports and history experts. Alternative explanations for the 30th of September Movement proliferate on the web in both English and Indonesian, for example. The government no longer has a monopoly on information. Little wonder, then, that in response to the teachers’ questions about the right way to teach history now, just want give some advice, you have to ‘be creative’.