Remembering International Terrorist Attacks: A Case Study of the Bali Bombings

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2014

20 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Methodology

3. The Case: Bali Bombings of 2002 and 2005

4. Why do we remember events?
4.1. Terroristic Attacks Lack Meaning
4.2. A Sudden Loss of Security
4.3. Media Attention
4.4. Embodiment of Memory

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

Worldwide numerous terrorist attacks have shattered societies. In recent time, especially those generating a sense of the West versus the Muslim world, gained large public attention such as the attacks of the World Trade Center in New York City in 2001 and the bombings of Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. Attacks, such as these, have not only happened on ‘Western ground’, but also Indonesia has been a victim of several terrorist attacks mainly targeting sites predominantly visited by Westerners, such as the hotel bombings in Jakarta in 2009 and the Bali Bombings in 2002 and 2005. The initiator of these terrorist attacks was the Islamic group Jemaah Islamiah with its spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir (West, 2008). This organization strives for an introduction of Shariah law in Muslim nations and perceives the Islamic faith to be oppressed by increasing influence of Western values in the Islamic World (West, 2008). Jemaah Islamiah, thus, justifies its attacks as defending the religion of Islam and its values from the perceived thread of the Western influence. Large attacks such as these in Indonesia lead to a large media attention, especially the random and high number of foreign victims lead to worldwide attention (Blakesley, 2007; Crenshaw, 2000; Turk, 2004). Therefore following definition of terrorism by Gibbs (in Turk, 2004, p. 284) will be used in this paper:

Terrorism is threatening, perhaps illegal, clandestine (avoiding conventional warfare) violence against human or nonhuman objects that is intended to change or maintain some belief, law, institution, or other social "norm" by inculcating fear in persons other than the immediate targets.

Gibbs, therefore, considers an attempt for social control as a possible base for explanatory theory (Turk, 2004). Johnson (1994 in Crenshaw, 2000, p. 415) states how the loss of order and control leads to an exaggeration of the likelihood of such an attack. Destabilizing society by shattering its moral values is used to put forward a political message.

“’Memory is the meaning we attach to experience, not simply recall of events and emotions of that experience' (Stern, 2004 in Barbara, 2009, p. 83); and is thus necessary to make sense of the present; it provides a time and space reference and is therefore also crucial in order to build the future” (Barbera, 2009, p. 76). Halbwachs distinguishes between autobiographical memory which is the memory of our firsthand experience, historical memory which is gained through historical records, history which has no organic relation anymore and collective memory which contains the active past that constitutes identities (Olick & Robbins, 1998). Community members share their experiences and their memory and thus create a collective memory which is in a constant exchange and negotiation between the individual and collective memory while each influences the other (Lambek & Antze, 1996). Memory and its active remembrance offers “… a constructive engagement with a fractured past and a moral judgment ...”, but can also turn into a powerful political tool when controlled (Argenti & Schramm, 2010, p. 19). Therefore it is necessary to recover memory, to tell and write the truth about an event, and to publicly recognize the value of heroes and the suffering of victims (Misztal, 2004); “[u]nless the memory can be deposited and can be expressed in a dignified way, the unrest continues” (Barbera, 2009, p. 83). Jelin (in Barbera, 2009, p.83) describes this unrest as “…scars of memory - the scars that are not visible to the naked eye but are always present and do not heal: 'There is no rest [for survivors] because memory has not been 'deposited' anywhere; it remains only in the minds and the hearts of people”. In order to avoid an unrest of memory, collective memory “… is embodied in regularly repeated practices, commemorations, ceremonies, festivals, rites and narratives" (Misztal, 2004, p. 76). The Bali bombings, for example, are still remembered in various forms: there are commemoration ceremonies each year, monuments were built, the media covers stories about the bombings every year. The film Long Road to Heaven - Tragedi Bom Bali Tahun 2002 (Sinaro, 2007) was made which shows what happened in the night of the bombings.

This paper will use the case study of Bali bombings in order to explore why terroristic attacks are remembered and how these are remembered. While all these spheres are highly intertwined this paper will first explore more in depth why people remember and then will then focus on the lack of meaning and the loss of security due to terrorist attacks, the importance of media attention and eventually the embodiment of traumatic memory.

2. Methodology

The theoretical background information will be gathered by literature review, especially journal articles and books. Since terrorist attacks do usually not happen on a regular basis the case study of the Bali bombings was chosen in order to describe and explain why such an event is remembered and how it is remembered (Schnell, et al., 2013). Yet it should be kept in mind that the illustration and explanation may not be generalisable but unique to this certain case (Schnell, et al., 2013). The case of the Bali bombings will be demonstrated by exploring various materials online such as journal articles, newspaper articles, interviews, books as well as the movie Long Road to Heaven. These sources offer information on why and how the Bali bombings are commemorated and provide an insight in how collective and individual memory is interconnected.

3. The Case: Bali Bombings of 2002 and 2005

On 12th October 2002 one bomb exploded inside Paddy’s Bar at 11:05 p.m. which was brought inside by a suicide bomber and less than one minute later another, even stronger, explosion occurred in front of Sari Club (West, 2008). Paddy’s Bar as well as Sari Club were situated at Legian Street in Kuta which is especially popular by young Western tourists which can be seen in causalities of 164 Western tourists (West, 2008). In total 209 people were injured that night and 202 people died, among them 88 Australians, 26 British, 25 other Europeans, 7 Americans and 38 Indonesians (West, 2008). The Indonesian causalities were kept at a minimum as no Indonesians were allowed inside the Sari Club, thus most of the victims were Indonesians working at Paddy’s Pub and other random people that happened to be around those places at that time, such as taxi drivers (West, 2008) These terrorist attacks were conducted by active members of the Islamic group Jemaah Islamiah who chose this destination most likely “… because of its status as a ‘mecca’ of Western tourism and a perceived place for moral licentiousness” (West, 2008, p. 339); also the attack was timed for a busy time leading to many causalities:

“… the bombing occurred at one of the busiest times of the year in Kuta, when the normal stream of budget tourists from Australia, Europe and Japan, including surfers and other alternative types of travellers in South East Asia …, are joined by Australian sporting teams, largely from Australian football, rugby league and rugby union codes, making their annual end-of-season trip to ‘party hard’” (West, 2008, p. 340).

Another attack happened on 1st October 2005 at around 8 p.m. at the beach in Jimbaran and in the bar and shopping area in Kuta and caused more than 20 fatalities and over 100 wounded (Quijano, et al., 2005). Again the timing was well planned on a weekend that was a school holiday in Australia and many had travelled to Bali for a short vacation (Quijano, et al., 2005). In Jimbaran two bombs exploded at the beach of Jimbaran around 40 meters apart from each other where many people gather to watch the sunset or eat at the beach restaurants (Quijano, et al., 2005). The bomb in Kuta was not far from the 2002 bombings in a restaurant (Ni Komang Erviani, 2012).

4. Why do we remember events?

Collective and individual memory are not independent entities but dependent on each other and are constantly reshaped and recreated depending on the social context and beliefs currently predominant in a community (Argenti & Schramm, 2010; Lambek & Antze, 1996). Memory is an essential part of shaping and reshaping identity since identity is dependent on how we present ourselves by our past stories, what we wish to forget or to remember and how we remember our past, on the individual as well as on the collective level (Lambek & Antze, 1996). This identity is part of a community’s culture that can give on memory in an embodied form such as “regularly repeated practices, commemorations, ceremonies, festivals, rites and narratives” (Misztal, 2004, p. 76); and is furthermore related to how memory is used in daily practice by the individual and the collective (Lambek & Antze, 1996). Paul Connerton distinguishes between two dimensions to embodiment: on the one hand, he highlights the importance of ritual and ceremonial performances as commemorative acts which allow a community to reassure itself; on the other hand he refers to 'habitual memory' throughout which a 'mnemonics of the body' (1989:74) finds its expression" (Argenti & Schramm, 2010, pp. 7-8). Bodily practice manages to shrink the distance between the past and the present (Argenti & Schramm, 2010). Especially in the 1980s and 1990s commemoration ceremonies gained popularity as well as sites of remembrance which can on the one hand be explained by the major historical events coming to an end in this time, such as the Cold War, and on the other hand these memories constitute political culture and collective identities which are essential elements of democracy (Misztal, 2004). Today’s society with often decreasing national narratives, due to an increasing number of democracies, often form smaller ‘memory groups’ that share past memories (Misztal, 2004). Especially memories of sufferings seem to play a crucial role in group identity building (Misztal, 2004). This group identity can be based on being affected by a major traumatic event such as the Bali bombings which can among others be represented by (non-government) organizations. Particularly “unexpected and emotionally laden events attract more attention and are better remembered than other more neutral events” (Pennebaker, et al., 1997); which was the case with the Bali bombings when the bombs shattered the image of Bali which was until then known for being a peaceful place. While there is usually an official version of memory created, counter-memory plays a crucial role in offering an alternative story to the official version, often even contesting official narratives (Olick & Robbins, 1998). "By placing trauma at the heart of counter-memory, what is remembered gains in moral weight as, in order to preserve the moral order, it becomes a duty to remember the past horrors. The duty to remember consists not only 'in having a deep concern for the past but in transmitting the meaning of the past events to the next generation'" (Misztal, 2004, p. 78). Therefore past events of trauma should be remembered in order to avoid a future trauma of the same kind.

4.1. Terroristic Attacks Lack Meaning

Father, I miss you

Miss the days spent with you

Father, you departed before my lips could call your name

Father, I love you.

Ni Wayan Cantika Wulan Sar (who lost her father in the first Bali bombings at the age of 1)

What are the reasons for a terrorist attack to become an event of commemoration? In order for people to use memory as a reference for time and space it is necessary to attach meaning to these memories. However no meaning can be attributed to an event of extreme violence as it cannot be attributed to common ethics and values and thus it cannot turn into discursive memory (Argenti & Schramm, 2010). Holocaust survivors describe their time in concentration camps as a counter-time, a time that hinders “normal progress through ‘ordinary’ time” (Argenti & Schramm, 2010, p. 10). A holocaust survivor describes that she does not live with Auschwitz, but it lives with her, this demonstrates how the memory is out of her control, but at the same time a part of her (Argenti & Schramm, 2010). Derrida uses the analogy of a ‘crypt’ to refer to deep memory as “a place hidden within or beneath another place, a place complete unto itself, but closed off from that outside itself of which it is nevertheless an inherent part”, in other words by trying to silence traumatic memory someone does not manage to simply forget the event but instead stores it deep inside oneself (Argenti & Schramm, 2010, pp. 11-2). ‘Normal’ memory generally is subject to introjection, however, traumatic memory may stay incorporated and fail to achieve a process of introjection (Argenti & Schramm, 2010). In case of the death of a close family member that dead can “become the living-dead inside oneself” (Argenti & Schramm, 2010, p. 12). The book Remembering Josh: Bali, a Father’s Story (Deegan, 2004) demonstrates how a violent experience stays with a person, as in this case the father who cannot deal with his son’s loss:

"I've not slept for 70 hours or more, walking, watching, waiting, praying for the end of this nightmare from which, at some stage, I must awake. But the reality is beginning to set in and I know only too well that at least in this life I shall never speak openly with my son. Never again shall I laugh with him, drink with him, discuss his future or watch him take to the field.' So begins a father's descent into hell. On 12 October 2002, Brian Deegan's son Joshua was killed in the terrorist explosion that ripped apart the Sari Club in Bali's Kuta Beach. Through grief and anger, this father has gone on a journey no parent should have to take. He has confronted the ghost's of his son's death, challenged the government's version of the truth and fought for the answers nobody wanted to give ..." (Deegan, 2004)

This example shows how memory of a close family member can lead to incorporated memory, especially when Deegan describes his inner unrest shortly after the event. Incorporated memory can ’haunt’ a person (Argenti & Schramm, 2010); as “[h]e [the father] has confronted the ghost's of his son's death.” Furthermore there is a lack of meaning to the event and why his son had to die that night as he later does not accept the official narrative of the happenings of the night but he looks for and tries to create counter-memory of the bombings. Various forms of commemorating violent events can offer a platform for processing the returning experience and turn it into discursive memory. The memory of the Bali Bombings still seems incomprehensible and somehow unfinished in the minds of people affected by it. “Takako Suzuki, who lost her son, Keo Kosuke Suzuki, and her daughter-in-law, Yuka Suzuki, said she still feels sad and angry” (Nurhayati, 2010). Also Ni Nyoman Rencin said with tears in her eyes: “I have to keep my strength to live my life. Sometimes I feel that I’m strong enough to live without my husband, but my heart cannot lie” (Ni Komang Erviani, 2010). Both examples show how the two women are still affected by their losses, how the memory of their loved ones still haunts them and has an influence on their current life. While these two women use a space of commemoration in Bali, others decided to write down their stories and make them accessible to the public.


Excerpt out of 20 pages


Remembering International Terrorist Attacks: A Case Study of the Bali Bombings
Humboldt-University of Berlin  (Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften)
Memory Making and Heritage in Southeast Asia
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
549 KB
Bali Bombings, Bali, Indonesien, Terror, Memory Making, Remembering, Jemaah Islamiah, Terrorism, Memory, Collective memory, Individual memory
Quote paper
Angela Kuhnert (Author), 2014, Remembering International Terrorist Attacks: A Case Study of the Bali Bombings, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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