Urban Youth and the Environment in a Mobile Indonesia by Dr Meghan Downes
Date : 29 Nov 2017
Time : 16:00 - 17:30
Venue : Asia Research Institute, Seminar Room
AS8 Level 4, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
National University of Singapore @ KRC

Jointly organized by the Asian Urbanisms Cluster, and Indonesia Study Group, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.


Prof Mike Douglass, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore


In this seminar, I take the mega-city of Jakarta in Indonesia as a case study for tracing changing relationships between young people and the natural environment, as mediated in popular cultural representations. Home to thirty-million people, the greater Jakarta area is a microcosm of the diverse archipelago, and a site of staggering inequality and breath-taking intimacies between wealth and poverty, as makeshift riverside homes compete with sleek apartments and high-class malls. Jakarta faces enormous environmental problems, particularly around flooding, traffic and pollution, but also fosters innovative local solutions to such challenges. In this context, I examine how young people’s understandings of environmental problems and solutions are mediated through film, fiction, social media, and other popular cultural representations. I focus particularly on the role of social identities such as religion, gender and class in determining people’s relationship to the environment, and how this specific case can illuminate broader global power-structures that influence people’s interactions with both built and natural environments. Popular culture reflects, shapes, and informs our everyday ‘commonsense’ ideas about social and environmental problems and solutions, and can arguably have greater transformative impact than education curriculum or scientific research. Not just in Indonesia, but globally, governments are just as likely to respond to populist perceptions as they are to detailed policy research, and it is therefore crucial to examine how everyday understandings of social and environmental justice are produced, spread, mediated through certain platforms, mobilized for particular interest groups, and imbued with specific meanings. In the Indonesian case, my research reveals how representations of the environment frequently become entangled with broader discourses of both national progress and personal development, with important implications for environmental futures.


Meghan Downes is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Asian Urbanisms research cluster at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute. She completed her PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra, in the School of Culture, History and Language, and is the recipient of two Australian government Endeavour Awards for her research on contemporary Indonesian film, literature, media, and the politics of popular culture. She has also worked as a features reporter for the Jakarta Post and as a translator and consultant for the conservation organisation Flora and Fauna International. Recent publications include ‘Who wants to be a (Muslim) Millionaire?’ in the collected volume Contemporary Culture and Media in Asia (edited by D. Black, O. Khoo and K. Iwabuchi), ‘Hybridities and Deep Histories in Indonesian Wayang Manga Comics,’ in the journal Situations, and ‘Critical Pleasures: Reflections on the Indonesian Horror Genre and its Anti-Fans’ in the journal Plaridel.


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Contact Person(s)
Minghua TAY