Transforming Urban Collective Memory: From Historical Red-Light District into ‘Cool’ Public Green Open-Space in Jakarta

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 13:15
Oral Presentation
Raphaella DWIANTO, Universitas Indonesia, Indonesia
This paper highlights the process of transforming collective memory of the people of Jakarta, on the city’s red-light district. Collective memory of the district as a notorious yet historical district of controlled by groups of local strong men, transformed into the image of ‘cool’ family-friendly public green open space, in less than two years. This paper questions: who takes what part and how in the making of the ‘new’ collective memory; who are in(ex)cluded by whom and how.

According to historical data, ‘Kali Jodo’ (‘match-making river’) district emerged as red-light district in early 19th century when Indonesia was still under the Dutch colonial rule. Occasionally the district witnessed its workers evolved from a sexual worker into courtesan and eventually mistress of the client. After the independence of Indonesia in 1945, the district image worsened, as the social class of its clients and workers deteriorated. ‘Kali Jodo’ was then known as hive of sexual transaction, illegal gambling, drug transaction and crimes, under the command of groups of strong men, with image as ‘untouchable’ by the formal authority. Attempts to ‘clean-out’ the district by several governors of Jakarta since 1990s did not bring significant changes. However, in 2016 the city government carried-out a scrap-and-build urban renewal policy resulting in a drastic change. The district turned into public green open space. Though still bears the same name ‘Kali Jodo’, the district is now known as a ‘cool’ and family friendly public space.

This paper traces back and analyzes visual images (including historical pictures, drawings, visual appearances in media after the urban renewal policy in 2016) of the district. In addition, this paper also gathers personal experiences from people who were close to the district, to comprehend the contesting process of transforming urban collective memory.