Special lecture: Reuven Pinnata

Presentation title: "From Catatan to Corat-coret: Historical Memory and Market Subsumption in the Early Fiction of Eka Kurniawan"


This talk presents materials from my book project, which I am calling Totalizing Nusantara: On World Literature as Indonesian Literature. In this project, I argue for a non-national and worldly reading of Indonesian literary texts through their capacity to critique capitalism, which they understand as always colonial and racial in nature and global in geographical and historical reach. I explore fictional and nonfictional texts produced at four pivotal junctures in colonial and postcolonial Indonesian history—post-1870 imperial expansion, the emergence of vernacular nationalism at the turn of the twentieth century, the rise of New Order in the wake of the 1965-66 anticommunist massacres, and the post-New Order decentralization—and explicate how these texts actively mediate the relationship between national history and capitalist totality. 

My presentation will present materials taken from one of my chapters, focusing on the fictional writings of Eka Kurniawan, arguably one of the most acclaimed and recognizable figures in contemporary Indonesian literature. Often hailed by academics and publishers alike as “the next Pramoedya,” Kurniawan nevertheless confronts a different set of aesthetic and political problems than his predecessors. If Pramoedya and other figures such as Tan Malaka primarily wrote in the form of fragmentary notes (catatan) that they would then assemble as a means of addressing the Indonesian public while evading state violence and censorship, Kurniawan’s early fiction takes the form of short, punchy “scrawls” (corat-coret) as a response to the demands of the Anglophone world literary market, an aesthetic strategy whose political implications I analyze in his debut short story collection Corat-coret di Toilet (Scrawls on the Toilet Walls). In other words, Kurniawan’s collection inaugurates an emergent period in Indonesian literary production where its main challenge lies not only in its heteronomy to the state, as is often assumed by many scholars, but also in its heteronomy to the market.


In-person or virtual (registration required for online attendance)

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Thursday, February 22 at 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM

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