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Contested Javaneseness in Sociocultural Documentaries of the Post-New Order Indonesia

Gerardus Majella Adhyanggono


This article fleshes out how two Indonesian sociocultural-themed documentary films of the post-New Order era articulate the counter-imaginaries of Javaneseness. They are Jamu (Javanese Traditional Medicine) and Kulo Ndiko Sami (We are Brothers). The emergence of bringing the issue of Javaneseness to light has its cause on its complex politicization in the New Order regime. Javaneseness was ideologically manipulated as the hegemonic narrative of the state to construct an image of Indonesian society. Javaneseness incorporated by the regime was of a desired aristocratic model in combination with other non-Javanese worldviews.
This desired strand of imagining was then politically used to simplify the whole gamut of Javanese cultures and marginalize other ethnic cultures. With the collapse of the New Order, sociocultural activists and filmmakers of the grassroots regarded the burgeoning of independent documentary filmmaking as momentum to utilize documentary film as a medium to project alternative interpretations of Javaneseness. The article proposes a symptomatic reading of the examined films by looking at their aesthetics and ideological aspects framed and situated
within the oppositional views of the imagined community by Benedict Anderson and Partha Chatterjee. By drawing on the films’ aesthetics and ideologies that articulate Javaneseness, this article aims to show two points. First, the counter-imaginaries of the New Order’s Javaneseness are projected through the documentaries and such projections prove to be dynamic. Second, inclusive views on how to represent ethnicities in contemporary Indonesia need promulgating.


hegemony; counter-imaginary; interpretation; narrative; representation

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2021.03607