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Re-imagining Indonesia: New Diversity in Javanese Photographies Through Traditional Communities

Re-imagining Indonesia: New Diversity in Javanese Photographies Through Traditional Communities

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Lee Corkett. Originally submitted for Honors Anthropology at University of California, Los Angeles, with lecturer Dr. Sherry Ortner in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Lee Corkett. Originally submitted for Honors Anthropology at University of California, Los Angeles, with lecturer Dr. Sherry Ortner in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/22/2014

 
Re-imagining Indonesia:
New Diversity in Javanese PhotographiesThrough Traditional Communities
 
ABSTRACT:
 
How do transnational images interact with local cultural and social identity? Based on fieldwork with photographers on the Indonesian island of Java, this research focuses on the decade following thecountry’s reformation, analyzing how local photographers document and interpret life in the CentralJavanese city of Yogyakarta. While anthropological discourse often characterizes local medias as indices of homogenization with neoliberal pressure, this ethnography of post-reformation photographic collectivesillustrates the unpredictability of media production within specific localities. In Yogyakarta, photographiccollectives are centers for education and display of new works, but also represent the maintenance of local practical values and community.Globalization presents a unique problem to social science as the phenomenon incorporates variablesnot easily observed or accounted for. The Internet provides unprecedented access to information andinfluence from outside regional localities which invariably alter the local in unpredictable ways. While prevailing debates lament cultural change due to globalism, this essay attempts to account for change from alocal and agentive perspective, rather than an exterior and preservationist one. In this essay, I argue thatalteration occurs on local terms and provides an opportunity to observe how societies change and howappropriated information arriving from non-local origins are indices of locally determined usefulness, rather than simply signs of encroachment.Prior to political turmoil in 1998, Indonesia’s authoritarian media restrictions encouraged the production and mediation of only images which “responsibly” reproduced a nationalistic and ‘authentic’Javanese culture. These restrictions created
a social condition which effectively reduced the efficacy andavailability of cultural spaces and resulted in far greater cultural homogenization than do current neoliberalpressures.
The subsequent release of those restrictions resulted in contemporary photographs which arespatially and temporally tied to individual experience, inclusive of international cultural influence andresistant to ‘past era’ cultural representations. Analysis of these new photographs suggests that integrationwith foreign photographic practices doesn’t eclipse local cultural values, but is central to innovation.Globalism enables photographers to implement new ideas into their work, to broaden available creativespaces and to re-imagine local identity in new and changing contexts. The process of this negotiation resultsnot in mimicry but in new diversity, and the photographs produced offer a complex perspective of what itmeans to be Central Javanese in Indonesia’s New Era.
 Keywords:
globalization, photography, post-nationalism, Indonesia, community
 Re-imagining Indonesia: New Diversity in Javanese Photographies through Traditional Communities
!
 
Introduction
Just down the street from the gates of the historic and prestigious
Gajah Mada University
in theCentral Javanese Kingdom of Yogyakarta is a 1970s rock cafe called
“Lekker Je...”
, a name whichtranslates from Dutch to “
You’re Delicious...
”. Inconsistencies abound on the streets of Yogyakarta andalthough
 Lekker Je...’s
Dutch and colonial origin reminds the visitor of Indonesia’s uneasy past, the cafe isironically suitable for the city
.
The university was the country’s first, founded the same year as thecountry’s independence from the Dutch and remains a symbol of Indonesian sovereignty.
 Lekker Je...
 doesn’t compare in prominence, but its sarcastic name and Western rock–and-rebel-culture decor presentsanother, more local side of Javanese identity and confirms agentive cultural appropriation in a country withso many ghosts of colonialism.
For the last three decades, alarms have sounded against globalization and the neoliberal dominanceof Western culture on seemingly powerless developing nations. However, domestic and neighborhood lifecannot exhaustively be defined by outside powers and globalization may not be the old enemy of colonialhegemony in a new disguise (Hall 1997; Hannerz 1996). International practices can be localized and thisphenomenon has been explained through terms like “
glocalization”
(Manderson and Jolly 1997)
 
and
“dubbing culture”
(Boellstorff 2007)
.
These theories discuss how “the global” is oriented within localspaces, but consistently place non-Western cultures as
receivers
of globalization. The process may be muchmore complex and than these ideas simply. It may simply be that cultural trends which have non-localorigins find new usefulness in local terms. It may not be fully resonant with local perspectives to attempt toexplain globalism by discussing “the local” as part of “the global”, but to learn to see the global from theperspective of the local, and rather than study
where
ideas originate, consider
why
they have arrived.
This essay explores the complex problem of globalization; how ideas move and how they areinterpreted. My research site is the Central Javanese city and Kingdom of Yogyakarta and the medium Iwill be using as an index of globalization is digital photography. I have chosen photography for its abilityto move across cultural boundaries with ease and have selected this field site for my long standingfascination with the country and also for Yogyakarta’s internationally famous Sultanate led community
 Re-imagining Indonesia: New Diversity in Javanese Photographies through Traditional Communities
!

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