In 2021, UCLA graduate students continued to conduct their research projects sponsored by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies' Indonesian Studies Grants.


Aji Anggoro
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Julie Gaynes
World Arts and Culture/Dance

While a robust body of scholarship documents the New Order Regime's control of public consciousness in central regions of Indonesia (particularly Sumatra, Java, and Bali) after 1965, few scholars map the state mechanisms of knowledge production in remote regions of Nusa Tenggara Timur. In regions where direct outlets for state propaganda and surveillance arre confined to hand-held devices with poor signal, the "spirit of violence", and more importantly, submission, still lingers in collective consciousness. My study analyzes the impacts of state violence in one of the most under-researched and technologically disadvantaged regions of Indonesia. Study of violence-justifying knowledge production in the Lamaholot region of Indonesia might serve genocide studies by identifying the essential vectors of communication which serve state orchestrations of violence. How does the "spirit of violence" travel across time and space with limited resources? 

While unable to travel due to Covid-19, I completed necessary secondary source research on the political and intellectual landscape of the Lamaholot region during 1965-1966, when Suharto first leveraged influence over public consciousness in Lamaholot communities far from Java. Additionally, I made significant progress on the next iterations of my MA project. The project is a visual art/collage anthology of oral histories of women healers in Lembata, Indonesia. After much editing and translating (into Indonesian) the book over the summer, the project will earn a place on a limited-restriction website where my narrators can comment and edit the manuscript as they see appropriate. This will send me into the next phase of explorations as an oral history researcher and book artist: trials in co-authoring and co-editing a book with collaborators who live in remote regions of Indonesia with little access to computers, printers, and mailing systems. I intend to bring hard copies of the book with me for final revision upon completion of my (intended) advancement to PhD candidacy this Summer. 


Dian Tri Irawaty

Samuel Nowak

Over the last decade, digital platforms like Amazon, Facebook, and Uber have dramatically reshaped the global economy through the collection of big data about users connected through their platform, a historical transformation increasingly referred to as "platform capitalism." There has been an explosion of cross-disciplinary social science research working to understand how this shift is reshaping labor markets, urban development, and economic regulation, among other processes. Yet, the vast majority of this work remains narrowly focused on case studies in the United States and Europe, problematically assuming that concepts developed in the Euro-American core will translate to much of the post-colonial world. Correcting this imbalance, my dissertation works to deconstruct these taken-for-granted universalisms. Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic research in Greater Jakarta, Indonesia, I explore how the ride-hailing platforms Grab and Gojek are transforming labor politics, informal transportation, and urban governance, theorizing what these changes can tell us about platform capitalism in cities of the Global South. 

The Indonesian Studies Small Grant for Summer 2021 enabled me to progress on my dissertation writing. Over the summer, I completed the first chapter of my dissertation, "The social lives of network effects: Speculation and risk in Jakarta's platform economy," and revised it into a manuscript, which has been accepted to Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. Drawing on qualitative and ethnographic research on ride-hailing platforms (Grab and Gojek) in Greater Jakarta, the paper extends the concept of "network effects"—a phenomenon in which the more users there are in a networked system, the more valuable and useful it becomes. While the current literature understands the concept in technical and economic terms, I highlight the ways in which network effects are embedded in social relations created and sustained in everyday urban life. Through analysis of Jakarta's ride-hailing industry, I find that online motorbike taxi drivers (ojol) have attempted to mitigate the risks of their work by building grassroots communities of mutual aid, coordinated through online and offline social networks. In conclusion, I argue that attention to these social lives of network effects reveals new forms of labor organizing that enable ojol to further their own interests of collective survival in the platform economy. 


Kun Xian Shen
Asian Languages and Cultures

My project on the career of the Mandarin songstress Teresa Teng engages with the unproblematized and ethnocentric notion of Mandopop—Mandarin Chinese language pop music—within a comparative framework of relations between Sinophone and Southeast Asian communities during the Cold War. Through interviews with Indonesian Chinese informants and archival researchers in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, I was able to illustrate a more diverse picture of Teresa Teng's career beyond the confines of Chineseness. As newspaper sources show, Teng cooperated with international labels such as Polydor and PolyGram to record original and adapted songs in Bahasa Melayu/Indonesia with local producers such as Wan Ibrahim and A. Riyanto, paid tributes to famed singers such as Gesang and Osman Ahmad, and expressed musical styles that reflected "gambang Semarangan"(Semarang instrument) and "rakyat Nusantara" (Southeast Asian people). 

Meanwhile, for ethnic Chinese communities living in Malaysia and Indonesia where Chineseness was suppressed, Teresa Teng became part of their negotiated identities. From interviews with Indonesian Chinese fans of Teresa Teng, I learned about the existences of black market (pasar gelap) within Chinatowns in Indonesian big cities, where ethnic Chinese sneaked in to buy pirated cassette tapes, vinyl records, or even videotapes of Teresa Teng's music and performances. At a time when Chinese-language publications from all media were banned by the New Order regime, Teng's works were circulated within black markets and amongst friends in a semi-secretive manner. Meanwhile, compared to the nationalistic and militarized purpose Teng's Chineseness served within Taiwan, her role within the ethnic Chinese communities in Southeast Asia becomes a symbol of cultural conservation, either in Mandarin classrooms constantly facing threats from the state or Chinese culture museums aiming to preserve history. Such Chinese identity is closer to a fugitive, one that is underwritten by obliteration, revision and revival, rather than the authoritarian and rigid Chineseness in Taiwan.


Chase Smith

The Indonesian Studies Small Grant for Summer 2021 allowed me to attend the remote first-year Indonesian language course at the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At SEASSI, I worked to develop my language skills across the areas of reading, speaking, writing, and listening. Samples of activities that I completed include writing short essays, engaging in interpersonal dialogues, making voice and audio recordings, and designing and writing an infographic on the life of Pramoedya Ananta Toerr, one of Indonesia's foremost authors of the twentieth century. This course of study has provided the foundations for me to pursue second-year Indonesian with Dr. Juliana Wijaya at UCLA, supported by the Academic Year 2021-2022 Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship Award.

Learning Indonesian is essential for my academic work as an aspiring researcher and educator of Southeast Asian history. While I am now able to read simple Indonesian-language texts with the aid of a dictionary, my longer-term goal is to build upon the language progress I made at SEASSI in order to read original Malay- and Indonesian-language primary and secondary sources. Both will be fundamental components of my doctoral research on the history of early modern maritime Southeast Asia, which examines the encounters between the Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch and the inhabitants of this region. By reducing my reliance on problematic colonial-era translations of Malay and Indonesian texts into European languages, the ability to read original sources will empower me to write more compelling histories that foreground the Southeast Asian voices that are often silenced or distorted in colonial sources and translations. Furthermore, by expanding my secondary reading to include historical scholarship written by scholars in Malay and Indonesia, I will be able to engage directly with important perspectives and debates to an extent that would not be possible were I solely to read works of scholarship on Southeast Asia produced by academics writing in European languages. My study of first-year Indonesian at SEASSI has therefore put me on a path toward becoming a less Eurocentric scholar and educator of Southeast Asian history. This is both an important long-term academic goal for me and an important means to bringing more diverse, non-European voices into my doctoral dissertation project. 


Otto Stuparitz

The Indonesian Studies Grant for Summer 2021 allowed me to complete my dissertation chapter, "Evidence of Indonesian Jazz at Museum Musik Indonesia," which analyzes a grassroots audiovisual archive in Malang, East Java, Museum Musik Indonesia, and one of the rare magazines, Musika, I found among their collections. Musika, published for only one year from 1957-1958, contains evidence of a jazz community in Indonesia during the lesser-known era of the late 1950s with figures like guitarist Jack [Lesmana] Lemmers, singer Nien [Lesmana] Suprapto, record label owner and singer Suyoso Karsono [Mas Yos], and pianist Nick Mamahit. Written and edited by associates of Irmama Records, the first Indonesian owned record label, Musika presents jazz as a familiar and popular music in Indonesia at that time, influenced and was being influenced by other styles like kroncong, hiburan, pop, lagu Malyu, Western classical, and Balinese and Javanese gamelan. As Indonesian archival users, particularly nearby university students, access this magazine and its related recordings at Museum Musik Indonesia, they uncover unfamiliar aspects of Indonesia's popular music history as part of their cultural heritage. 



Published Icon

Published: Wednesday, June 30, 2021