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Jemma Purdey is an Indonesianist with an interest in contemporary Indonesian history and politics, and Australia's engagement with Indonesia and the region. Her research interests include life writing, the study of violent conflict, human rights and reconciliation in Indonesia and minority studies.
Jemma is currently working with David Lowe, Jonathan Ritchie and Michelle Verso on the ADRA Research project, '50 years of Papua New Guinean and Indonesian tertiary scholarships in Australia: an assessment of post-scholarship leadership, networks and linkages with Australia'.
For high school students in regional Victoria in the early 1990s, Asian studies featured little on the school curriculum. Jemma Purdey's interest in Asia however, came via a combination of an exchange trip to Malaysia between Years 11 and 12, and her active participation in human rights issues with Amnesty International. The Dili Massacre in late 1991 piqued her interest in Indonesia in particular. Jemma majored in Political Science and Indonesian language for her BA (Hons) at the University of Melbourne and also took a year out to travel and study in Indonesia.
It was the influence of Charles Coppel in the University of Melbourne's History Department that led Jemma to her PhD thesis topic in early 1998. This was an exciting time as Indonesia was potentially on the verge of great change. Charles' research interest into the ethnic Chinese guided Jemma to focus on the escalation of violence against this minority group.
Jemma completed her thesis on 'Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia, 1996-1999' in 2002, and as a Fellow at the IIAS in The Netherlands 2002-2003, she developed her wider thematic interest in the study of violence in Indonesia. The thesis was later published as Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia: 1996-1998 as part of the ASAA Southeast Asian Publication Series, 2006.
In 2004 she accompanied her husband to Mumbai, India where she worked as a volunteer at a school for slum children and at a women's resource and advocacy centre. During this time her writings were focused on the NGOs where she worked, the Indian film industry and politics.
From 2005-2011, Jemma held positions at Monash University as Writer-in-Residence at the Centre of Southeast Asian Studies and later as an ARC Australian Postdoctoral Fellow, predominantly researching and writing the life of Herb Feith, Australia's first and greatly loved Indonesianist. In early 2006 as a Harold White Fellow at the National Library of Australia, Jemma has had privileged access to Herb Feith's personal archive.
The biography From Vienna to Yogyakarta: The life of Herb Feith (UNSW Press, Sydney) was published in mid-2011, and launched at events at Parliament House, Canberra; Monash University in Melbourne and in Jakarta at the residence of the Australian Ambassador. Jemma also edited a special edition of the journal RIMA: Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, and edited a book both on the theme of 'Knowing Indonesia: Scholarship and engagement in the Australian academy'.
She has published elsewhere in journals, edited collections and in online media. She is Chair of the Board of the online magazine, Inside Indonesia , a member of the Board of the Herb Feith Foundation, and also a member of its working committee.
From Vienna to Yogyakarta: The life of Herb Feith, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2011.
Kekerasan anti-Tionghoa di Indonesia, 1996-1999. Denpasar: Pustaka Larasan, (forthcoming September 2013).
Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia, 1996-1999. Singapore: ASAA SEA Publications Series, Singapore University Press, 2006.
Knowing Indonesia: Intersections of Self, Discipline and Nation, Monash University Publishing, Clayton Vic., 2012.
Chapters in Books
'Chinese Indonesians, kongkow and Prabowo: A story of reconciliation in post-New Order Indonesia?, Conflict, religion and culture: Domestic and international implications for Southeast Asia and Australia, edited by Joseph Camilleri and Sven Schottman. London: Routledge, 2013, 126-148.
'Morally engaged: Herb Feith and the study of Indonesia', in Knowing Indonesia: Intersections of self, discipline and nation, edited by Jemma Purdey, Monash University Publishing: Clayton Vic., 2012.
'Ethnic Chinese, Violence and Legal Responses', in Indonesia: Law and Society, 2nd Edition, edited by Timothy Lindsey. The Federation Press: Sydney, NSW, 2008.
'The "Other" May Riots: Anti-Chinese Violence in Solo, May 1998', in Violent Conflicts in Indonesia: Analysis, Representation and Resolution, edited by C.A. Coppel, Routledge Curzon: London, 2006.
'Anti-Chinese Violence and Transitions in Indonesia', in Chinese Indonesians: Remembering, Distorting, Forgetting, edited by Timothy Lindsey and Helen Pausacker. Singapore: ISEAS, 2005, 14-40.
Edited Journal Special Edition
'Ways of knowing Indonesia: Perspectives from the Australian academy', Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, Vol. 43 No. 1, 2009.
'Ways of knowing Indonesia: Perspectives from the Australian academy', Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, Vol. 43 No. 1, 2009: 1-6.
'Many Voices, One Life: Dealing with memory and "telling" in the biography of Herb Feith', Journal of Historical Biography, 3 (Spring 2008): 56-86.
'Knowing Indonesia Inside and Out: Herb Feith and the intellectual search for understanding', Life Writing, Volume 4, no 2 (2007): 181-195.
'Describing Kekerasan: Some observations on writing about violence in Indonesia after the New Order', Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde (BKI), 160-2/3, (August), 189-225, 2004.
'Is There A Place for Ethnic Chinese Identity in Post-Suharto Indonesia? Reopening the Asimilasi versus Integrasi Debate', Special Edition, Asian Ethnicity, Volume 4, Number 3, October 2003, 421-437.
'A Contested Truth about the May 1998 Violence: Problematising the Place of Victims in Reformasi Indonesia', Asian Survey, August/September 2002, 605-622.
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