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Transformations of youth resistance: Underground music scene and Islamic politics in post-authoritarian Indonesia

Saefullah, Hikmawan (2022) Transformations of youth resistance: Underground music scene and Islamic politics in post-authoritarian Indonesia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The Indonesian underground music scene was once known as the bastion of progressive and radical Leftist politics for urban youths during the Reformasi era (1997-2002). After the fall of Suharto on 21 May 1998, leftist activism in the scene declined, and was followed by the emergence of the right-wing Islamic underground movement and the hijrah movement. Their opposition to democracy and enmity towards minority groups has undermined the scene’s reputation as one of the key elements in Indonesia’s emerging democratic culture. The existing studies on the ‘conservative turn’ have failed to explain the ideological shift of underground subcultural participants towards Islamic conservatism and right-wing Islamism. This study was inspired by this background and aimed to answer the following research question: ‘Why did some underground music scene participants shift to conservative Islam and right-wing Islamism in post-authoritarian Indonesia?’ Drawing from extensive (ethnographic) fieldwork in Indonesia between 2015 and 2018, and informed by subcultural theory, I argue that the transformations of the Indonesian underground music scene including the most recent shift towards conservative Islam and right-wing Islamism reflect the transformations of youth resistance in response to different socio-political and economic conditions that have disempowered and marginalised them. These conditions are both external and internal to the scene. The external factors include post-Suharto’s political stagnancy, suppression and co-optation of Left activists by the state and right-wing groups, the domestication of the underground’s subcultural capital and practices, material inequality, and the lack of economic opportunities. The internal factors include polarisation and fragmentation, informal hierarchies, nihilism, the absence of central figures, and stagnancy within the scene. Due to the absence of coherent leftist activism within the scene, the participants sought for alternative channels to express their dissent, including new ideological and organisational platforms to resist hegemonic cultures and authorities and find solutions to the demoralising effects generated by the above conditions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Asia Research Centre
Supervisor(s): Wilson, Ian
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