Square’), where it is now surrounded by national institutions. The open spaces of

the square distance the monument from the crowded city, but were infiltrated from

the beginning by various prohibited users – beggars, prostitutes, illegal vendors and

homeless people. These rhizomatic practices of everyday life tended to cut across

the idealized nationalist symbolism of the square. The demise of Suharto’s ‘New

Order’ in 1998 coincided with the rise of another kind of order in Merdeka Square

which is now fenced and purified. This chapter explores the changing meanings and

Jakarta was founded as a port city that was first colonized by the Portu-

guese in the sixteenth century. The Dutch then established the city of Batavia as a

walled city and the centre of the Dutch East Indies in the seventeenth century. As

the city expanded southwards under French rule in the early nineteenth century,

about 90 hectares of open field was laid out as a military training field named

Champ de Mars (Field of War) (Heuken 1982: 45). After the Dutch resumed

control, the square was renamed Koningsplein or King’s Square (Figure 10.1). A

Governor General’s residence was built across the street to the north in 1820

with a palace added in 1879. Various public institutions were constructed facing

onto the square: the National Museum to the west (1868) and two Christian

churches to the east (Heuken 1982: 45). The City Governor’s residence and office

was added to the south in 1909. A railway line was cut through the eastern edge

in the 1870s and a major train station in 1937. The vast square itself also began

to fill with functions: a horse-racing track, market place, police station and

telephone office. The police and telephone buildings defined an open space in

front of the Governor’s Palace in the north-west corner which became the key

centre of power in both symbolic and practical terms, framed by symbols and

practices of authority, force and communications. When the Japanese took

control from the Dutch in 1942 the square was used primarily as a sporting

venue with an athletics stadium and sporting halls.