Panel 4A – Political Participation (Indonesia)

Panel 4A Political Participation–the Geometry of Participation in the face of Neoliberal-influenced Authoritarianism  (Indonesia)

This sub-session of panel 4 is focused on Indonesia, to consider the current authoritarian transition Facing the effects of the combination between state elites’ political clientelism, narrow rhetorics on patriotism, and an illiberal agenda, how do different political participation models interact, combine, or exclude each other?

  • The contributors analyze the co-existence of different models, from traditional triangular and circular social organizations to representative bottom-up and top-down democracy, to self-organized and federative organizations embracing certain anarchist tendencies.
  • With the renewal of government authoritarian strategies, how do the governed social groups adapt their tactics, objectives, and modes of action?
  • How can governmental technologies be hijacked and become tools for social emancipation?


Host institution: LP3ES (Backup: UNDIP)

Chairperson: Michele Ford (Sydney Southeast Asia Centre)


Jim Donaghey (Ulster University, Ireland)Under the Radar? : the Changing Face of Repression Against Anarchism and Punk in Indonesia

Abstract: Anarchism was a vibrant current in the Indonesian left in the early twentieth century, to the extent that orthodox Marxists in the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) sought to repress it. The movement was practically destroyed during the Suharto regime, and, akin to many authoritarian contexts, anarchism’s re-introduction to Indonesia accompanied the emergence of the punk scene in the late 1980s and 1990s. Anarchist ideas spread along with punk throughout the archipelago, manifesting in anarcho-punk collectives and anti-fascist networks active within the anti-Suharto movement.

Perhaps because of its close association with punk, anarchism was for many years fundamentally misunderstood by the authorities. Repression faced by anarchists was rooted in their association with punk or overlapping involvement in feminist activism and was usually religiously framed as a ‘social disease’ or as ‘haram’. This has changed significantly in recent years. Anarchists’ involvement in resistance to neo-liberal development and extraction projects, and especially the confrontational May Day protests of 2018 and 2019, has led to the police publicly identifying ‘anarcho-syndicalism’ as a ‘spectre’ to be repressed.

So, a movement that was previously ‘under the radar’ now finds itself vilified by the state and caricatured in the press. This is not to say that anarchism is now well-understood by the authorities, nor by academics or commentators, but the character of repression faced by anarchists has shifted, and responses to this have ranged from evasion to confrontation –as this presentation will detail.

Keywords: punk, anarchism, repression, evasion, confrontation.

Bio & Contact: Jim Donaghey is a punk working in academia. He has been doing research with punks and anarchists in Indonesia for around 10 years, as well as a range of other international contexts. Jim’s research into the intersections between music and politics includes an emphasis on participatory action research and creative methodologies. He combines his focus on punk and anarchism with an exploration of issues of cultural repression, post-conflict legacies, contested spaces, and transnational movement organising. Jim is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Media Research at Ulster University in the north of Ireland, leading the AHRC Early Career funded project ‘Failed States and Creative Resistances: The Everyday Life of Punks in Belfast, Banda Aceh, Mitrovica, and Soweto’.  He is on the board of Punk & Post-Punk journal, is a member of the executive editorial board of Anarchist Studies journal, is web editor of AnarchistStudies.Blog, and drums with the band Lawfucker.

Video presentation

Pradipa P. Rasidi (Universitas Indonesia, Indonesia) Playing with Politics: Cyber Troops and Its Moral Theater 

Abstract: The 2017 Jakarta election has been popularly described as a “gubernatorial election with a taste of presidential election.” Colored by populist and sectarian politics, the election was polarizing. Like the presidential election that preceded it in 2014, cyber troops were mobilized as a part of “unregistered” campaign teams, whose involvement included the conduct of trolling and disinformation, to generate support towards their candidate and delegitimize their opponents. This paper uses this “cyberwar” campaign to reflect on how democracy itself, particularly illiberal democracy, allows cyber troops to thrive and channel their aspirations through electoral politics. Moving beyond the assumption that cyber troops are merely paid propagandists, this paper situates them as creative agents who engage in politics as theatrics practiced through digital media, and base their labor as a moral economy driven by “idealism and conscience.” The paper draws inspiration from theories of play to explore how cyber troops imagine themselves as “political players” in two ways: through performance—practiced in digital media—that involve a mimicry of institutionalized roles in politics, and through navigating their own identity as “unregistered team” whose existence is officially denied, allowing them to have an independent feel of the game of politics. This interplay, the paper argues, subverts political participation into a morality play that, rather than fostering civic engagement in a public sphere renders the participants vulnerable to reinforcing authoritarian practices in democratic regimes, which have characterized Southeast Asia in recent years.

Keywords: political play, cyber troops, political buzzers, social media manipulation.

Bio & Contact: Pradipa P. Rasidi received his Master in Anthropology from the University of Indonesia (2020) with a thesis on Twitter microcelebrities and virtual place-making; he completed his Bachelor in Political Science also at the University of Indonesia. His research interest includes digital politics, selves and personhood, and myth and narrative. He previously worked as a developer and designer in the information technology industry and was involved in digital media projects with multiple NGOs. He currently works as a research assistant in the Dutch-Indonesian project on “Cyber Troops and Public Opinion Manipulation in Indonesia”. 

Video presentation

Muhammad Thaufan Arifuddin (Nagoya University, Japan;  Andalas University, Indonesia)Civil Society and Oligarchic Power: A Case Study of Broadcast Media Reform in Post-Suharto Indonesia

Abstract: This paper analyzes the political antagonism between civil society, the media, and political parties in the context of the rapid development of digital media and the prevalence of corruption and money politics after the Reformasi. It utilizes a case study of broadcast media reform to demonstrate fluctuations in the relationship between civil society, media magnates, and oligarchic political parties. The paper argues that the complexities of political interests in the sector have influenced the direction of democratization in the post-Suharto era. An analysis of broadcast media policy shows the efforts of elites and political parties to use national private television as a means of electoral propaganda. Komisi Penyiaran Indonesia, the Indonesian broadcasting regulatory body is a strategic and democratic institution in regulating broadcasters which is still strongly influenced by political clientelism. As such, it is not safe from the interests of elites and political parties in the process of selecting KPI commissioners. As a consequence, the revision of the Broadcasting Law of 2002, which made space for local broadcast media stations and digitalization platforms, has not been implemented. At the same time, civil society in this sector has suffered from critical stagnation. Instead of demanding accountability, they engage in piecemeal digital media activism to produce alternative content aimed at improving critical media literacy. The lack of direct engagement has led to a situation in which broadcasters have been used by elites to deepen oligarchization (not democratization) in post-Suharto Indonesia.

Keywords: Oligarchy, Civil Society, Indonesia, Broadcast Media Reform, Instrumentalization.

Bio & Contact: Muhammad Thaufan Arifuddin is a PhD candidate at the Department of International Cooperation Studies, Graduate School of International Development Nagoya University, Japan. He is also a lecturer at the Communication Department, Faculty of Social and Political Science, Andalas University, Indonesia. His major interests are media, politics, and democracy. He is doing Ph.D. research on oligarchy and civil society in the sector of broadcasting media and anti-corruption in contemporary Indonesia.

Video presentation

Herlambang P. Wiratraman (Airlangga University, Indonesia)The Return of Authoritarian Politics and its Impact on Academic Freedom in Indonesia

Abstract: In the five years between 2015 and 2020, attacks on Indonesian campuses and academics have not only continued but in fact increased. Digital attacks to disrupt and stop discussions, persecution or doxing for intimidation, or also criminalization and lawsuits against academics, including suspension pressures or even dismissals for lecturers and students who are critical of the policy, have become regular features of the academic landscape. The perpetrators of these attacks have effectively acted with impunity, free from any kind of sanction from authorities. Even former pro-democracy activists now employed by the government maneuver to defend its power by denying science.

Why can the regime so easily take advantage of intellectuals by supporting anti-science policies? Why do campuses submit so easily to regime rules that make these bastions of academic freedom so fragile? Also, in the midst of these pressures and threats to academic freedom, how does state policy respond to demands for greater academic freedom? This article unravels how renewed authoritarianism in Indonesia undermines academic freedom and the production of scientific knowledge amidst the intensifying attacks on civil liberties currently occurring not only in Indonesia but around the globe.

Keywords: academic freedom, authoritarian politics, anti-science, academic resistance.

Bio & Contact: Herlambang P. Wiratraman is an Advisory Board of the Indonesian Caucus for Academic Freedom (KIKA) and Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Airlangga University.

Video presentation