About ashleyarzy

Wyoming born and raised, but live to be away, native speaker of Uhmerikan, lover of most things Indonesian, born-again graduate student, research minion at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs

Research Journal – Final Walk-through

Memetic-Resistance: Propagating Political Parody in Post-Reformation Indonesia


  • Why memes?
  • Historical context to censorship and contemporary media
  • Despite regular elections and the Corruption Eradication Commission, serious challenges to justice and democracy are present
  • Parody through memes are an effective way of passive resistance with regard to expressing opinions about justice and democracy

Identity and Accessibility

  • Ease of distributing images through Blackberry Messenger, Facebook, etc.
  • Dissent exists because it is exchanged
  • Indonesia’s user demographics
  • Scott’s ‘hidden transcript’ – less fear of reprisal
  • Attitudes reflecting everyday reality through depiction of memes

Utility of Expression

  • Concealing the identity of creator and audience
  • Subverting cultural mores of civility and propriety
  • “Hold up high and bury deep” leaders’ indiscretions

Case Studies/examples of memes

  • Gayus Tambunan disguise, crop circles, KFC
  • Muhammad Nazaruddin’s man hunt, correspondence with the president and Columbia cash and carry
  • Memes poke fun of the absurdity of the events that unfolded after the charges were brought against the defendants
  • What do the memes tell us about the audiences sensibilities regarding the state of the justice system, the government and the president?


  • Changes since independence
  • Satire as a means to express dissent in hidden space
  • Talking back to partial press freedom
  • Opinions exchanged about the absurdity of the cases above
  • Future scholarship on memes as reflections on further attempts by the Corruption Eradication Commission’s efforts to capture graft suspects

Research Journal

After many rounds of editing, I wrote the conclusion of my paper last night. I am glad I waited to write this last part until after I had finished adding content because some important additions were made in the course of editing. I was reluctant to add the theory I did because it seemed like I would have enough to support my thesis. The notion of creating a space where takes on reality can be exchanged was integral to my paper in that it highlights the opportunities for citizens to reflect on current events without fear of reprisal. The virtual world presents an almost nonexistent space for the expression of dissent, reactions to absurdities in the justice system, etc. I didn’t expect my paper to take this form, but use of both the heavy theoretical approach of James Scott’s hidden transcripts and Achille Mbembe’s more anecdotal accounts were a helpful combination.

Final Blog Post

I think the most interesting were the book on China and the documentaries we watched that helped characterize the material we read. I think the insight on China and the theories about democratization will prove useful in the future to provide context to places that are still wrangling with democratic processes. Specifically, I will be eager to see how rural China navigates elections and how they evolve over time. My experience in Inner Mongolia makes this piece extremely relevant, as it has impacts on how business will be carried out in villages and how that business interacts with/has an effect on government practice.

I think that my understanding on the democratization process has evolved from limited knowledge about how democratization occurs by holding snap elections in the midst of chaos, to a much more complex and intricate process. Though I agree with Dr. Kendhammers assessment that democracy does not have a wide threshold of requirements, the effects that foster it like rule of law, democratic institutions, corruption eradication, etc. are more difficult to achieve. I am still skeptical of the propensity for some countries to strengthen their democracies because the aforementioned criteria still plague its efficacy, but I am confident that it is inevitably desirable and something citizens strive for for their country.

Research Journal

I just had an idea about the final section of my paper which is turning out to be less cohesive than the two case studies I included to examine memes. The last section was going to include memes about the Indonesian legislature, but the examples are not as creative or indicative of what the case studies accomplish. I think I would rather expand the theory section that I was undecided on and conclude, instead of including another section analyzing random memes.

Research Journal

After making some necessary additions from the peer review, I am still a little worried that the background/theory section is lacking. This is only the introduction, so a few other sections include some theoretical framing, but the bulk of the argument is in the following section:

Politics have made countless cameo appearances via various media in the form of parody. To many scholars, parody – whether consumed through sound or sight – is an expression of passive resistance. As Ebenezer Obadare puts it, “In short, humour is (or more appropriately ought to be regarded as) an important weapon in the armoury of civil society against perceived state high-handedness,” (Obadare 2009, 244). The way humor is used can be regarded as a defense found somewhere, as Obadare puts it, “between escape and engagement” with democracy. For the purposes of this paper, I will be exploring a specific set of visuals which one might define (in the contemporary sense) as “memes” – small images, often with few words that are exchanged electronically. These shorthand cartoons zoom in on one image, pair it with a witty quip in bold font, and disseminate its message virtually with the click of a button.  They are almost as easy to make as they are to share and can quickly reflect the political landscape of any country with access to the internet. Indonesia’s staggering Blackberry- and Facebook-using population makes this exploration into the use of memes as resistance particularly unique. With a relatively young democracy and a history of censorship, “memes” are not just glimpses into popular culture, but a newly discovered and difficult to suppress form of expression.

As the country transitioned rather abruptly – literally overnight – from Old Order under Sukarno to New Order under Suharto, the country underwent massive changes for reasons beyond the scope of this paper. Suharto’s New Order was particularly repressive in areas where leftist ideals might have been open to surface, protecting the country from the threat of Indonesia’s communist party after the 1965 putsch. “The New Order was adept at regulating the supply of newsprint through the Ministry of Information. It arbitrarily and publicly banned newspapers if they published articles considered sensitive by the government,” (Tapsell 2012, 230). Tapsell’s essay chronicles the history of media censorship in Indonesia, first by government interest and more contemporarily, as he argues, by corporate interests who own the big outlets. As an important tool of legitimacy, the media was key to Suharto’s success and worthy of censorship (Tapsell 2012, 231). After his ouster in 1998 though, the legacy of reformation (Reformasi) laid the groundwork for Indonesians to play a more participatory role in information sharing as it relates to the average Joe (or Joko in the Indonesian context) – meanwhile the country’s press and internet statuses still remain “partly free” (Freedom House 2013) and 139th out of 179 countries ranked for press freedom (Reporters without Borders 2013).

The continued regulation through defamation laws and the 2008 Information and Electronic Transfers Law are undoubtedly hinder freedom of expression, though these freedoms have expanded by leaps and bounds since the era Reformasi and tahanan politik (political prisoners). The social media capability provides deep insights into a landscape that has historically been mindful of its level of criticism – a landscape that has crossed over from supportive to cynical. How these freedoms are utilized can lend itself to an understanding of what resonates between individuals vis à vis democracy and justice.

Indonesia has undergone a series of transitions, some more explosive than others, off and on since independence in 1945. From the communist purge of 1965, to the 32 year reign of Suharto, to riots and economic crisis in 1998 and elections ousting presidents, present day Indonesian democracy is seemingly tranquil. With over 65 political parties, pulling elections off are no doubt challenging, but have managed to occur most recently with the successful second term of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2009. Despite seemingly peaceful and regular elections, corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN) still presents serious challenges for the relatively nascent democracy.

The goal of this paper is to explore why parody is a means by which Indonesians choose to express their political culture and what the exchanges say about their opinions on democracy and justice. I will use the following sections to theorize why memes make useful and likely ways to exchange those opinions and then use a few case studies as examples of memes exchanged as satirized responses.

Research Journal

This weekend was a productive time for my paper as I worked to develop the case studies I have compiled memes for and expanded sections providing historical context. I included a few new sources having to do with self-censorship in the media and news articles chronicling the case studies I included for insight into the memes I analyzed. The journal article focuses on how censorship circa 1965 Indonesia has changed tremendously to present day and editors and media moguls are now the force behind journalists’ “self-censorship”, placing further emphasis on innovative media.


I will be finishing analysis on the last section of memes and then writing my conclusion. I will probably add a source to my theory section as I am relying heavily on one scholar’s book and a handful of journal articles. Otherwise, I think the editing process should be smooth since I focused much of my editing energy on that section of the rough draft.

Blog Post 4/17

I think by virtue of holding the elections, rural voters in China are learning about the democratic process. I tend to agree with the author’s views that the fact there is no opposition is problematic for democracy, but that there is competition is a positive element – however competitive people from the same ideology can be.  On page 69, the author explains, “The village election process has in effect been a massive act of education that has taught over 800 million people, over two decades, the principles of Party and non-Party members running for power, of secret ballots, and of one person, one vote. It has also taught of the principles of universal suffrage and of a choice of candidates.” These are intrinsic to the democratic process.

The application of the aforementioned education has its shortcomings. One person, one vote has been corrupted by ethnic/tribal voting blocs, head of household and proxy votes. Though non-Party members run, it does not seem very likely that non-Party members succeed where meaningful difference is made, as many positions are taken by Party bosses. In as much as the elections serve to give legitimacy to those who enforce Party mandates, it does not show much evidence of reciprocating the needs of the electorate. This seems to be the revolving door of Chinese democracy.

Blog Post 4/10

Put simply, as Lynch explains on page 223, U.S. interests lie in the disruption free- flowing of oil at reasonable prices, the protection of Israel and the delicate balance between Israel and the rest of the Arab world. Alliances with autocratic rulers now do not serve those ends and doing so has proven more volatile than supporting opposition which in turn, hopefully fosters democratic transition. Understanding long-term consequences of supporting these causes is not yet clear, but it seems more favorable than the alternative. The establishment of a stable government to serve as the start of a swing block would also likely serve to promote interests more favorable to America moving forward.

Perhaps a more Islamic North Africa and Middle East presents a less certain outcome for American interests and is therefore approached more cautiously. The line between supporting interests of activists and leading them has been fine and the Obama administration has taken a more grass roots approach to diplomacy, perhaps because of the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan.  As Lynch puts it, the role of Islamists could be constructive or destructive. In an environment with organized elections, they would likely do well considering their level of popular support, funding and organization. In more volatile environments, extremism could prevail turning popular support against the West and more unfavorably into anti-American sentiment.

Journal Post

I have been filling in gaps in the historical context in Old and New Order regimes in Indonesia, what they mean for press freedom and how Reformation has changed the media landscape. I found a useful article discussing the transition from censorship encouraged by the Suharto regime to self-censorship that has been encouraged by editors themselves in contemporary Indonesia. This is building up the case for why the use of social media is worth examining.

Next I will move on to developing my case studies and adding more commentary to the visuals I provided as examples of exchanges made through social media. The analysis of memes and how they reflect people’s opinions of democracy and justice will help describe the importance of the “hidden transcript” as an outlet.