This paper comes from a larger project which is a new history of the New Order regime (1965-98). By examining the forms and functions of torture under the New Order, it is a history that views the violence deployed not as corollary but as constitutive of that regime. Torture was not exceptional, or rare, or even atypical during the New Order. Torture was pervasive and far-reaching. Torture was commonly and purposefully used against men and women (and sometimes children) by soldiers, police and a range of other state agents and their co-opted auxiliaries in cases across the length of Indonesia’s more than 5000km stretch of the archipelago, and throughout the thirty-three years of the military’s rule. The prevalence of torture deployed by the New Order makes this history—to use one metaphor commonly adopted to try to explain institutionalised violence—one of bad barrels, rather than bad apples. Or, to use the description provided by the Defence of Lynndie England and Sabrina Harman in their courts-martial for their roles in the abuses committed at Abu Ghraib prison, this is a history of the “poisoned orchard”; the structures, norms and cultures of abuse within the New Order’s security services which enabled pervasive torture. In this paper, I set out some of the conceptual challenges of explaining torture’s pervasive use, and its function within, the New Order.

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