Space, Time and Symbol in Urban Indonesian Schoolboy Gangs

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: F204
Oral Presentation
Pam NILAN , University of Newcastle, Australia
This paper uses theories of honour and masculinity to look at the phenomenon of male youth fighting in the urban space of two cities in Central Java, Indonesia. The masculine habitus of lower middle class Javanese schoolboys is referenced in local collective violence. Acknowledging the long history of heroic warfare and factionalism in Java, the data point to the pleasurable sense of oneself as a kind of warrior fighting with a band of brothers on specified ‘battlefields’ in the city. Four points emerge from the analysis. First, peer fighting is a temporally-bounded activity that ends with the school-to-work transition, thus bearing out Messerschmidt’s (1993) argument about the conditional and compensatory nature of collective masculine violence. Second, alcohol plays an important role in amplifying peer conflicts and honour disputes. Third, getting a girlfriend demands the expression of a different kind of masculine habitus from that operationalized in peer fighting. Finally, Muslim schoolboy youth squads (geng[s]) are intense formations for the construction of warrior masculinities, employing theologically-informed imagery in battles with boys from secular and Christian schools. The spaces of battle are identified with names that anchor them to the global Islamist struggle.