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Jonathan Zilberg, Ph.D. Visiting Research Scholar Universitas Islam Negeri, Syarif Hidayatullah, Jakarta Presentation Delivered at Universita Degli Studi di Napoli, L’Orientale Departimento Asia, Africa E Mediterrano Ciclo di Seminari sull’Indonesia October 15, 2013
Map of Emerging Sharia Legislation by 2006. Source, Tempo May 14
Places to note: Aceh, Jakarta (West Java) and Jambi (Sumatra) Periods to note: Contemporary 2005-2013 and 7th – 13th Century. Religions: Islam and Buddhism. Core Issues – Imagery and Interpretation
Punk, Porn and Desecration - From Aceh to Jakarta to Jambi
The map of Indonesia in the above slide provides a geographic and legal context for this talk in that it shows the emergence of regional sharia legislation by 2006. The map allows one to appreciate the scale of the attendant success in the enactment of conservative agendas and the attendant rise of religious intolerance experienced in the period 2005-2013, so much so that some observers argue that we are witnessing an engineered sense of a moral crisis for political ends. While it gives you a basic sense of the changing legislative, cultural and political context, one first needs to keep in mind, the religious fatwas against liberalism and pluralism which spearheaded this transformation. Specific religious and political forces lead and collaborate to engineer, legislate and enforce reformist religious agendas. The ultimate question is this then: Is a rising hegemonic sense of conservative national Islamic identity challenging both the original constitutional charter enshrining pluralism known as Pancasila and thus eclipsing a prior innately liberal national consensus?
Punk, Porn and Desecration: Discussion Points The capture, persecution and re-education of punks in Aceh. Why?
An emerging culture of intolerance and a general sense of moral crisis nationally. Why? And what consequences? To be brief, why aside and for you to ponder, the type of consequences are: Increasingly bold acts of intimidation and violence by forces enforcing “piety,” closing down and burning churches and persecuting non-mainstream Islamic communities while on the cultural front, more and more women wear the jilbab as an overt identification and expression of Islamic piety. Pressure groups consistently advance a transformational agenda by stopping concerts by foreign artists like Lady Gaga, banning women from straddling motor bikes, prohibiting the Miss Universe competition from taking place in Jakarta, attempting to propose to enforcing virginity checks in Sumatran high schools, and sometimes the bizarre, such as the program to annually measure youth genitalia in Aceh. Generally, a trend exists to create and enforce all manner of local bylaws intended to dominate the public and legal sphere to advance a more conservative Islamic charter.
Ariel, Inul and Jupe In a climate of relative impunity and rapid transformation of the previously plural and liberal national imaginary, an anti-pornography law was drafted, past and put into effect. In due course, the Indonesian version of Playboy was banned and editor jailed. High profile victims became celebrated scapegoats. In this context we initially saw the persecution of Inul Daratista the sexy dangdut artist, the end of her career, yet the sensational rise and the prurient reactionary triumph of Jupe (Julia Perez), and the spectacular social drama of the Peter Porn (Pan) saga and the jailing of the band’s rock star leader Ariel, his recent release three years later and the birth of his nationally acclaimed new band Noah. These are some of the most iconic symbolic histories marking the antipodal and contradictory social transformation of Indonesian society underway in which an artist like Jupe can flaunt and push far beyond the boundaries of what the antipornography legilsation attempted to enforce at least in the visual domain and in which an artist like Ariel has emerged as more popular, more celebrated and professional than ever.
It is against this innately liberal broad social context and original contract, the changing legislative background, and the above image, that we can best understand the tensions at play in the increasing number of incidents of violence against religious and cultural minorities for the period 2005 – 2013 and the three topics under discussion here today. They are again – the “reeducation” of punks in Aceh, the politics of the pornography hysteria, and finally the wholly unintended but nevertheless functional desecration of Buddhist heritage in the site of Muarajambi in Jambi, Sumatra in terms of the treatment of religious relics, namely the ashes of deceased spiritual and intellectual leaders of the Indonesian Hindu-Buddhist era, 7th to13th Century.
Porno-Aksi: A discussion on the conjunction of feminism and patriarchy, an emerging national critique the objectification of the female body, and changing norms and laws.
Discussion Points: The Extremes and The Context. Figureheads. Whose Your Leader? Radical or Liberal? Whose your preferred dangdut artist? Rhoma Irhoma, Inul or Jupe?
What is “normal” in Indonesia? Whose vision is becoming dominant? What do the contradictions and diversity tell us about a changing nation and its history and in particular the history of the diversity of local Islam and conservative Islamic political agendas playing out at the national and local level?
Indonesian pluralism and regional cultural diversity as expressed in the reactions to the proposed pornography law in 2006. Where are we today in 2013? Studying Indonesian? Read Jupe’s lyrics for a radical example of moral diversity in the public sphere and cultural blow back against the conservative agenda. Consider the failing popularity of Islamic parties, the recognition of generic hypocrisies and yet ask this. Is there or is there not a fundamental shift entrenching an increasingly illiberal hegemony taking place?
The realities of a liberal Indonesia and the relative scales of the problems and incidents from 2006-2013 and beyond. A more liberal nation than you might possible be able to imagine from media reports. On scale, violence, politics and history, watch Joshua Oppenheimer’s film The Act of Killing. On dangdut and sexuality, an emergent fascinating anthropological literature well worth reading.
No More of This: It’s History Now! This used to be normal news stand material before the antipornography law came into effect. What are the implications of such changes if any? A discussion on changing norms and values, the West and the Rest, pop music versus dhakwa (Islamic values propagation) radio in what is essentially the largest Islamic population in the word, 98 percent of 240 million people.
Connecting The Three Issues: Punks, Porn and Desecration
While the formal paper for this presentation explores theoretical issues concerning representation and politics, for this context, there are some basic points I would like to emphasize which connect these three very different issues in three different localities but relevant across Indonesia. First, while I have not provided any visual images of the persecution and reeducation of punks in Aceh, we have discussed why they were a critical symbolic threat to the new political landscape there and thus had to be removed from the public sphere and treated as scapegoats to enforce a moral agenda somewhat broader than the prior general application of sharia law. Second, the issue of pornography and dandgut has addressed this normalcies in Indonesia now policed as immoral practices damaging the nation’s spiritual integrity. In all cases, I have raised the issue of diversity and hypocrisy, public and private, and above all, an arguably fast changing local and national imagination. Now third, we move to the topic of desecration in Jambi and what constitutes the archaeological pornographic - to be radical. The three are linked issues in terms of religion and the national plural imaginary. We have explored this in discussion in the elemental identity formation we find in music and prayer, in imagery and a different kind of historical religious context connecting the archipelago..
Destruction, Reconstruction and Desecration at the Cultural Heritage/Archaeological Site of Muarajambi, Jambi. This photograph taken in the site museum shows the map of the 2,900 hectare site and the Prajnaparamita sculpture representing the Goddess of Supreme Wisdom, the Buddhist philosophy of the Perfection of Wisdom for which this site was a pontifical seat of learning between the 7th and 13th Centuries. Besides discussing the destruction of the site by industry and archaeology, and briefly the issue of the history of the difference between the study of logic and esoteric tantric demonic Buddhism, the most important issue here is what lies behind that map in this site museum.
On the Licensed Desecration of Buddhist Cultural Heritage
In the map above, most of the area on the south-east bank has been used as an industrial site since the mid 1970’s. As someone with archeological interests and training, and as someone concerned with heritage, such activity within a designated site, and particularly considering the importance this site has to the history of Buddhism, I find this image categorically pornographic, that is, to move towards the final discussion for this presentation which is the matter of interpretation. But first, consider the issue of the desecration of religious relics excavated from the mandala at the base of Candi Gumpung where the Prajnaparamita sculpture was found and as illustrated below.
Prayers at Candi Gumpung, Muarajambi After the reconstruction of this and other structures at the site, Buddhists began to visit to perambulate and pray here. This specific structure is of the most exceptional religious and historical value which I can only here very briefly allude to as an ancient pontifical seat of learning connected intimately first with Nalanda in India and then with the Tibetan reformation of the 10th and 11th Centuries through the person of Atisha and the Sumatran logician Dharmakirti.
The videos of the prayers at Candi Gumpung (and the other video of Ariel’s revival) as discussed in the presentation is available on-line at jonathan zilberg you tube. As with my use of facebook as a social archive platform, I systematically provide photographs of these sites, issues and sculptures in order to share information with students such as yourselves in order to encourage collaborative practices of open sourcing knowledge in this case for a specific end, to bring attention to the desecration of these relics at a university of this importance for the study of Orientalism.
These are the ashes and remaining bone, the relics from the cremation pyres of the most highly venerated Buddhist philosopher priests of the Buddhist period in Sumatran history, a center for learning linking China and India and Tibet well known in the literature on Sriwijaya, Chan Pei and Suvarnadvipa. They were excavated from the mandala within the foundation of Candi Gumpung alongside other relics ensuring the propsperity of the structure and those who taught and worship and now again worship there. If this is not desecration, if this is not pornographic, then what is? In my presentation naturally, these points were considerably elaborated.
Moving on from the issue of the desecration of these relics, unintended as it may well be by the fact of sheer ignorance and lack of compassion and oversight, or what have you, we come to the issue of the problem of the interpretation of images, an issue which cuts across and binds the three topics addressed here today of punks, pornography and desecration. In considering this slide we considered the issue of whether the term demonic in demonic Buddhism is accurate or not, symbolic or referent to actual ritual practice involving blood sacrifice and tantric sexual rituals in graveyards etc. Naturally, the issues of representation, sexuality, religious practice, and norms thus unites the three topics under consideration.
Ariel in Action: On Music, Ritual and Prayer. Towards closure, and referring also to a video posted on-line of this performance and of the potential for audio-visual anthropological research using hand phones, facebook and open access on-line archives such as scribd, we returned to Ariel and his new band Noah in a recent performance in Jakarta, a celebration of his return to the public sphere and everything he and his music represents. I also noted the connection many young people in Aceh have to particular songs by Peter Pan as a anthems of memory to lost family and friends, the last time they saw them, at the concert immediately before the tsunami.
Why Not? I’ll Tell You Why. This last image in the presentation refers back to one of the first images, the rise of the FPI, Islamic Defenders Front, in Jakarta in particular as defenders of public morality in the war against pornography and other moral threats to the nation. As to why the matters of punk and pornography, and issues of Caliphatization matter, I refer you as students to put into practice your Indonesian language skills by conducting your own interviews with such people. Good luck!
Credits and Contact Details The images used from the media in this presentation were taken from The Jakarta Post, Tempo and Gatra and from my field data much of which is available on facebook and at scribd. They will be fully detailed and credited if and when used in formal publication with appropriate copyright permission. At this point, in this context, they are merely provided here for educational purposes. For information, a formal bibliography and paper which will follow in due course please contact the author at email@example.com, join me on facebook or follow me on scribd or at academia.edu. Please cite and seek copyright permission if re-using any of the above media sourced images. Finally, I am grateful to Professor Antonia Soriente for this opportunity to have given this presentation in this seminar. The first image on the cover slide is a student’s adaptation from an image taken from Playboy Indonesia considered by law to be pornographic.