My book project focuses on variations in the intensity and form of mass repression. It examines these issues in the context of the 1965-66 killings in Indonesia, in which security forces and their civilian allies killed an estimated 500,000 civilians.
My book argues that security force capacity best predicts the level and lethality of repressive violence. In doing so I challenge existing works that view repressive violence as a product of particular state configurations, of ideology, as a strategic response to threat, or due to lack of territorial control. Evidence in the book is drawn from a cross-provincial comparison of violence dynamics during the killings. During fieldwork I interviewed a combination of current and former soldiers, civilian militia leaders, former political prisoners, and leaders of Indonesia’s largest religious organizations. Their accounts, combined with Indonesian military sources and foreign diplomatic archives, allow me to trace how violence, arrests, and killing unfolded in three Indonesian provinces with varying levels of repressive violence. In my conclusion I use an original dataset on security force capacity and lethal repression to test these findings across a range of cases beyond Indonesia.