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This article reads the text of the pembelaan (defense speech) written by Ida Irianti, a female union leader, to reflect on the twin issues of factory employment and female workers' activism during the authoritarian regime in Indonesia in the 1980s. The pembelaan describes the factual conditions of workers toiling under the regime's antilabor policy of exclusionary corporatism and reveals how the Indonesian working class embodies the narrative of class in their demands for social justice. More than just a conventional pembelaan—a document used for legal defense purposes in criminal courts—Ida Irianti's pembelaan stands apart as a fine example of working-class literature in the context of the rapid industrialization Indonesia was then experiencing. Thus the document is comparable to other forms of writing by women workers in East Asia that were produced under repressive authoritarian regimes. Based on this reading, this article suggests the importance of Ida Irianti's pembelaan as a social reference, with its micro-level perspective helping to deepen our understanding of Indonesian labor politics during the 1980s.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14672715.2012.738543

Publication date: December 1, 2012

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