Universitas Indonesia Conferences, 7th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Performative Acts in Indonesia’s Electoral Democracy
Yoes C. Kenawas

Building: Soegondo Building
Room: 707
Date: 2019-07-26 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM
Last modified: 2019-07-01


This paper addresses an empirical puzzle in Indonesia’s democracy. On the one hand, the public have repeatedly shown that they have a low level of trust in key democratic institutions. On the other hand, Indonesian electorates have a high level of optimism in electoral democracy, and the turnout level in elections remains robust. How should we explain this paradox? This paper argues that the regular displays of democratic rituals help to shape the identity of Indonesian electorates as members of a democratic society. The repeated displays of democratic rituals maintain the electorates’ excitement and belonging in Indonesia’s electoral democracy. The paper uses ethnographic observation on the 2019 Indonesia presidential debate public screenings (nonton bareng/nobar) to understand the paradox in Indonesia’s electoral democracy. The author finds that the ethnographic method can help political scientists to answer questions that are difficult to answer when one relies only on traditional political science’s quantitative and qualitative methods. Based on the findings from ethnographic observations, one can formulate more sensitive questions that can be further interrogated through both qualitative and quantitative methods that are familiar to political scientist. In doing so, this paper contributes to the development of the interdisciplinary approach in understanding political phenomena that are difficult to answer by using traditional approaches in political science.

Keywords: elections, democracy, performativity, ethnography