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Séminaire IAO – Pierre van der Eng: All lies? Famines in Sukarno’s Indonesia, 1950s-1960s

[ndlr] Annonce de la séance du séminaire de l’Institut d’Asie Orientale le jeudi 16 mai 2013 à l’ENS de Lyon.


All Lies? Famines in Sukarno’s Indonesia, 1950s-1960s

Pierre van der Eng

ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

Australian National University



Regional food shortages occurred in Indonesia during the 1950s and 1960s, but little is known about why they happened and to what extent they caused regional famines. Political turmoil absorbed most public attention during these years, and since 1957 the government of President Sukarno bridled the national press and limited access by the international media to the country’s interior. The disintegration of the public service prevented centralised and systematic data collection. This paper draws on newspaper reports and contemporary secondary literature to analyse the extent of food shortages and famines. While deteriorating general economic circumstances and crop failures are relevant, the paper concludes that the operations of the state-owned food logistics agency in the markets for key food crops immobilised food stocks and exacerbated regional food shortages, in several cases contributing to regional famines.