In Infrastructures of Impunity Elizabeth F. Drexler argues that the creation and persistence of impunity for the perpetrators of the Cold War Indonesian genocide (1965–66) is not only a legal status but also a cultural and social process. Impunity for the initial killings and for subsequent acts of political violence has many elements: bureaucratic, military, legal, political, educational, and affective. Although these elements do not always work at once—at times some are dormant while others are ascendant—together they can be described as a unified entity, a dynamic infrastructure, whose existence explains the persistence of impunity. For instance, truth telling, a first step in many responses to state violence, did not undermine the infrastructure but instead bent to it. Creative and artistic responses to revelations about the past, however, have begun to undermine the infrastructure by countering its temporality, affect, and social stigmatization and demonstrating its contingency and specific actions, policies, and processes that would begin to dismantle it. Drexler contends that an infrastructure of impunity could take hold in an established democracy.
Elizabeth F. Drexler teaches anthropology at Michigan State University.