This INDIVIDUAL PAPER may be viewed by clicking the blue VIEW PRESENTATION button (located across from the presenter's name/below the title) OR the View Presentation in the footer of this pop-up.
Sangsara dan San Sara: A Reassessment of the Japanese Occupation of Java, 1942-45
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
This paper re-examines the popular belief that the Japanese occupation of the island of Java during the Pacific War of 1942-45 was inherently cruel and institutionally predatory. By 1945, a pun began to circulate among the Javanese: “The Japanese occupation brought about san sara (plenty of food) to the Japanese and sangsara (misery) to Indonesians.” Since then, scholars have overly generalized Japanese occupational policy in Southeast Asia, assuming the predatory nature of military governments in regions such as Malaysia and the Vietnam were mirrored across all occupations. Through an examination of the unique occupational policies of the Imperial Japanese 16th Army under General Imamura Hitoshi, local Javanese mythology and early 20th century Japanese ethnic origins theory, this paper argues that the Japanese occupational policy on Java was often uniquely focused on the betterment of local conditions and not inherently predatory. Indonesian nationalist leaders, such as Mohammed Hatta and Sukarno, and Japanese officials forged a mutually beneficial, cooperative relationship. Furthermore, at no time did the Japanese occupational government sequester more foodstuff than the Dutch colonial administration that proceeded it. Instead, the widespread famine and suffering experienced on the island by 1944 was a product of natural disaster, maladministration, and the corruption of local Javanese officials.