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Alumni College V, Burditt

Zulkarnain Offers Keynote at Punk Scholars Network

Visiting Assistant Professor Zulkarnain shared his work on the Indonesian punk scene, noting several significant shifts in its contemporary cultures.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Media and Society Iskandar Zulkarnain offered a keynote speech at the Punk Scholars Network Indonesia conference, “Doing Global, Doing Local: Locating ‘Subculture’ in Indonesia,” in December. The seventh annual conference and postgraduate symposium was held virtually spanning eight days and organized by the Punk Scholars Network in France, United Kingdom, Australia, Indonesia, United States, Iberia and Colombia.

In his speech, “Dancing Pogo with the Culture Industry Revisited,” Zulkarnain shared his earlier work on the Indonesian punk scene to suggest several significant shifts in its contemporary cultures, such as the religious and nationalistic turn in some communities in the post-Reformation era (1998-present), which are strikingly different from the Indonesian Punk community’s left-leaning perspective of the Indonesian New Order regime (1990-1997).

Zulkarnain observed that the contemporary “trends” in the Indonesian punk scene can be understood by looking at the larger picture in the landscapes of the cultural industries in the country, such as the boom of so-called “pop Islam” and the reformulation of the concept of nationalism as a marketable product for the contemporary Indonesian youth in the post-Reformation period.

In his speech, Zulkarnain also discussed the adoption of popular social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Spotify in the local and global circulation of the Indonesian punk’s productions. This adoption, according to Zulkarnain, adds another layer to the Indonesian underground punk scenes’ adherence to DIY and anarcho-punk principles.

Ultimately, Zulkarnain asserted that the cultural shift and the adoption of social media platforms have created a much messier and entangled landscape of Indonesian punks and its politics. Zulkarnain concluded that perhaps with its ambivalent characteristics as both resistant and commodified, the Indonesian punk scene is developing a heterotopia, a counter-site “in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested and inverted.”

In addition to his keynote address for the Punk Scholars Network, Zulkarnain recently gave a presentation at a webinar, “Data, Algorithms, and Politics in Everyday Life,” organized by Reducates, a digital initiative which promotes interdisciplinary exchanges and networking among Indonesian and Indonesian studies scholars, founded by Professor of Religious Studies Etin Anwar who hosted the event.

Zulkarnain discussed his research on the phenomenon of “buzzers” in Indonesia, a term used to characterize individuals hired to attract attention to certain messages or products on social media, that have come to the forefront in Indonesia’s public discourse mostly due to its role in political campaigns, mis-information and disinformation. He focused on the overlaps between the construction of Indonesian buzzers and the global practice of micro-celebrity and influencer cultures, while also highlighting the importance of considering the culturally specific contexts that play a role in the emergence of the buzzer phenomenon. Zulkarnain’s research on buzzers is supported by a faculty fellowship grant from the Fisher Center for the Study of Gender and Justice.

Zulkarnain, who joined the HWS faculty in 2015, teaches courses on global digital cultures, animation, and video games. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester, M.A. from Florida State University, and B.A. from Universitas Padjadjaran. He is currently one of six Research Fellows at the Fisher Center.