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Viral Citizenship: Youthful Performances of an Alternative Civic Self at the Interface of Virtual and Material Spaces

Yatun Sastramidjaja

Young people in Indonesia are giving new meaning to citizenship by expressing their civic concerns, civic aspirations, and civic sense of self through playful forms of dissent performed at the interface of virtual and material spaces. In recent scholarship, the emerging civic power of youth is often linked to their prolific online activity– including social media campaigning, political blogging, and the production and circulation of satirical ‘memes’, YouTube videos and other online content that quickly ‘go viral’, which might spur or combine with offline action. However, little is known about the citizen identities and civic subjectivities behind these multi-mediated forms of civic assertion. While youthful performances of an alternative civic self are typically fragmented and fleeting, it can be argued that, taken together, they represent broader “acts of citizenship” by which young people “write new scripts of citizenship”, as Engin Isin puts it, which circumvent and transcend the current political debates and positions in post-reformasi Indonesia that also continue to preoccupy the more conventional youth and student movements. Illustrated by a range of seemingly unrelated cases of young people’s performances of an alternative civic self – which crosscut the traditional faultlines of class, ethnicity, religion, gender, ideology, class, and taste – I will argue that “new scripts of citizenship” are indeed in the making, but that we need new ways of thinking about citizenship and civic identity in order to recognize their potential.

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