Cultural Imaginary, the Rule of Law, and (Post-) Colonialism in Indonesia: Perspectives from Pramoedya Ananta Toer's This Earth of Mankind

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This article focuses on culture and rule of law in Indonesia, which provides an excellent case study in colonialism and post-colonialism. The colonial heritage of Indonesia goes back to the early 1500’s until independence was declared in August 1945. This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer is an appropriate text because it concerns the struggle of a Native Indonesian with various colonial institutions at the turn of the 19th Century through the eyes of an author who lived through colonial rule, Japanese occupation, and liberation. This article begins with a framework for analysis of the cultural imaginary based on recent work of Desmond Manderson. He identified three methods for law and literary analysis: the mimetic, the romantic and modernism. After summarizing the method of analysis, the article will outline two main tenets for assessing the rule of law. The third section applies the methods and the rule of law standards to the narrative in This Earth of Mankind. It will show that the colonialism’s use of law, at least from the perspective of the colonized, was inconsistent with core tenets of rule of law. It also shows that the narrative includes persuasive arguments critical of colonial rule of law. More importantly, it will show that the narrative provides a more nuanced depiction of law and colonialism, including a showing that non-colonial practices were even less consistent with rule of law and that colonialism empowered the colonized so as to promote the rule of law, although without success in the narrative. The third section ends with a few comments about historical context for the narrative, before turning to the conclusion.

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Law Text Culture