Grounded Cosmopolitans and the Bureaucratic Field: Musical Performance at Two Yogyakarta State Institutions

By Richter, Martin | SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, October 2006 | Go to article overview

Grounded Cosmopolitans and the Bureaucratic Field: Musical Performance at Two Yogyakarta State Institutions


Richter, Martin, SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia


Introduction (1)

In 2001, Indonesians experienced and negotiated intense power struggles involving religious, national, and local aspects of their identities. Three years after the collapse of the Soeharto state, the optimism of the Reform movement (Reformasi) was under increasing strain due to ongoing economic hardship and political fluidity. The Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) presidency and its transfer to Megawati Sukarnoputri involved a drawn out and often heated showdown between leaders and party supporters, fuelling debates over the marginalization of Islam in state matters. Indonesia's former state party, Golkar, and its Armed Forces (TNI) (2) variously sought to retain power and reposition themselves in the changing political climate. In local politics, the implementation of Regional Autonomy and the selection processes of mayors and district heads (bupati) impacted on bureaucratic structures and departments at the ground level.

In the Malioboro Street area of Yogyakarta, Java, where I resided and carried out research for six months during this period, the streets became contested space for exhibiting and promoting popular support for the various parties, leaders and their ideological positions. Neighbourhood groups displayed red or green flags to mark their political allegiance; banners (spanduk) over main roads warned of the new "communist" threat or pleaded for peace; and marauding motorbike campaigners (pawai) roared through the streets brandishing flags and sometimes weapons. In the midst of these actions, public musical events to varying degrees merged routinely annual themes with specifically political agendas.

In this article, I discuss how music serves as a medium for the negotiation of cultural difference and power relations. Based primarily on first-hand observations and conversations, I discuss two musical performances that brought local, religious and national political issues of the day into dialogue with the musical tastes and practices of street worker groups. Firstly, I outline Bourdieu's concept of bureaucratic field, this being the social arena where agents converge and compete to secure statist capital. Secondly, I discuss the cases, a campursari event at Yogyakarta's Regional Parliament and a street music (musik jalanan) contest at the National Air Force Academy, in light of this theory. Thirdly, I consider the extent to which the events were characterized not by homogenizing bureaucratic forces but by grounded cosmopolitanism, by which I mean openness to, engagement with, and even celebration of cultural otherness through experiencing the world's diversity at home. I then conclude by reflecting on bureaucratic and cosmopolitan practices at the two state musical events.

The Bureaucratic Field

A major contribution Bourdieu has made toward the understanding of social issues is his identification of, rigorous investigations into, and multiple forms of power. In relation to his concept of fields for example, he states that "The field of power is the space of relations of force between agents or between institutions having in common the possession of the capital necessary to occupy the dominant positions in different fields (notably economic or cultural)" (Bourdieu 1996 [1992]: 215). (3) Bourdieu is widely renowned for identifying power struggles in cultural fields. Less known is his concept of bureaucratic field, which aims to describe the social arena where players converge and compete over various state-related "species of capital". Identifying these forms of capital and their conversions helps to historicise and thereby rupture perceptions of the state as natural. More specifically, he suggests that the four species of bureaucratic capital are economic, informational (or cultural) and symbolic capitals, and the capital of physical force. In this schema, gaining power over these capitals enables dominant actors in society to procure state power, or "properly statist capital" (Bourdieu 1994: 4). …

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