Performing Identity and Community in Indonesia in Modern Times

Barbara Hatley
Vol 31, Number 2, p.104
Zygmunt Bauman’s argument that in contemporary conditions of ‘liquid modernity’, conscious construction and display of identity signal the death of lived community has recently been invoked in an article about Manggarai in eastern Indonesia. The authors assert a similarity between ‘the shifting grounds of late modernity’ and the ‘shifting and melting’ taking place today in Indonesia, with the dismantling of the authoritarian, centralist Suharto regime. While endorsing this picture of the changing, fluctuating nature of contemporary Indonesian society, I argue that the processes of construction of identity and community taking place in this context co-exist with, rather than replace, older ongoing communal practices. I attempt to show how, within the domain of performance, intersections and tensions between the familiar and the new are giving rise to productive new social meanings and relations.