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  • Cited by 4
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2010

15 - Ethnographic Case Study: Anak PKI – A Longitudinal Case Study of the Effects of Social Ostracism, Political Violence, and Bullying on an Adolescent Javanese Boy


I am told not to think about the past, but I still do, and (when I do), my emotions intensify…I was a quiet person before, so many people picked fights with me. Now (that I am different), the voices tell me to go back (and face) that past world.

(Joko, 2006 interview)

What is a “healthy” psychological response to long-term discrimination, oppression, social ostracism, and discriminatory violence, enacted not only by a state apparatus but also through the agency of local community members? How should notions of revenge and retribution be viewed in this context? And how does such a cultural environment affect a child's neurobiological and developmental changes?

These are some of the questions explored in the following case study of a central Javanese boy named Joko and his transition from childhood to early adulthood.


Joko was a patient of Dr. Mahar Agusno (MA), a Javanese psychiatrist with whom one of the authors, Robert Lemelson (RL), has been conducting ongoing research on neuropsychiatric disorders in Indonesia. Joko was referred to MA by the staff of the Catholic orphanage where his parents had placed him at age 12. The clinical interviews with Joko were initially conducted by MA, his wife Ninik Supartini (NS), and RL and were recorded on video. As the research progressed, RL, usually accompanied by NS (who also became Joko's counselor), conducted ethnographic person-centered interviews with Joko, his family, social workers, and the orphanage staff, as well as children from Joko's home village and other members of his community.

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Lemelson, R. (Producer & Director). (2009). 40 years of silence: An Indonesian trajedy. (Information available from
Lemelson, R., Kirmayer, L. J., & Barad, M. (2007). Trauma in context: Integrating biological, clinical, and cultural perspectives. In Kirmayer, L., Lemelson, R., & Barad, M. (Eds.), Understanding trauma: Integrating biological, clinical, and cultural perspectives (pp. 451–474). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Robinson, G. B. (1995). The dark side of paradise: Political violence in Bali. New York: Cornell University Press.
Yehuda, R., & McFarlane, A. C. (1995). Conflict between current knowledge about post-traumatic stress disorder and its original conceptual basis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 152(12), 1705–1713.