Transposing emblem by Rina Sitorus

These days, it is hard to separate polarisasi politik from the everyday life of Indonesian citizens. This phenomenon – having a personal and emotionally charged negative feeling about those in the other political camp has risen sharply before the upcoming presidential election in April 2019. People experience it every day, from conservative media, social media, to Friday speeches in the mosques, school announcements, and the biggest and most important “platform” of polarisasi politik nowadays: WhatsApp groups. It shows that people in homogenous communities grow more certain of their political ideas and beliefs, causing them to become extreme. Campaigns by both parties on both conventional and social media just amplify this.

Bandung, Indonesia – Downtown – Ikhsan Assidiqie

The tale of two films

If you think that polarisasi politik is only about debates and speeches on television, and all those campaigns by the two official presidential candidates (President Joko Widodo and his contender Prabowo Subianto), think again. People can get a taste of polarisasi politik from these two biopic films: A Man Called Ahok (AMCA) and Hanum and Rangga. Released on the same day, to me personally, this is the best example of how polarized Indonesian politics is these days.

Bandung, Indonesia – Shopping – Fikri Rasyid

A Man Called Ahok (AMCA) tells the story of the childhood of former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), while Hanum and Rangga is a love story about the relationship between Hanum Rais and her husband Rangga Almahendra. To make things interesting, Hanum is the daughter of Amien Rais, one of the driving forces behind the mob that successfully demanded Ahok (who is widely known as a strong ally of President Joko Widodo) be put in jail for blasphemy. Hanum Rais herself is a prominent member of her father’s party Partai Amanat Nasional (PAN), a faithful supporter of Prabowo Subianto.

The heated discussions – mostly having nothing to do with the production aspects of either film – are not only happening in social media, but extend all the way to IMDB. Rumor has it that it is mandatory for PAN’s supporters to go see A Man Called Ahok, with the AMCA team giving away free tickets for people to boost the audience figures. The rating for A Man Called Ahok on IMDB is 9, 2 while for Hanum and Rangga it is 1, 2 (ouch). As somebody with an open mind, you probably realize that the reviews might not come from a totally unbiased audience, but you can see this is how far the polarisasi politik has gone in Indonesia.

Bandung, Indonesia – On the street – Fikri Rasyid

What is actually happening?

Experts say that the polarisasi politik happening in Indonesia is due to the aftermath of the 2014 presidential election. This trend continued in the Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2017, where identity politics were used to gain votes.

It’s no secret that the tensions in the 2019 election are already heating up in Indonesia. This is the second time Jokowi and Prabowo are competing against each other and all signs are pointing to an even rougher campaign.

Prabowo’s supporters call Jokowi’s supporters liars and infidels, while Jokowi’s fans stamp Prabowo’s supporters as a bunch of fascists and extremists with low IQs.

Bali, Indonesia – In the shade – Johan Mouchet

Indonesians – creative as ever with their words – even have two unofficially official names for these two extremes: cebong (Jokowi’s pet tadpole) for Jokowi’s supporters and kampret (a derogatory reference to bats) for Prabowo’s.

Most cebongs are also loyal supporters of Ahok, and they are the same people who oppose the idea of Islamic values (Sariah) dominating public policy and daily life.

Meanwhile, kamprets are those who support Prabowo (mostly since 2014) and tend to actively join the massive anti-Ahok rallies and loudly claim that Jokowi hates Islam.

Surabaya, Indonesia – Waiting – Niko Lienata

Academics have concluded that there are three things that can be identified as the causes of polarisasi politik: difference in the empathy target, difference in phenomenon attribution and difference in a person’s moral values. When you look at Indonesian demographics, especially with the large social and economic divergences, it is no wonder that identity politics is popular. People can’t help but identify with a (bigger) group who they trust shares the same beliefs and defends their (personal) interests. The presidential election in Indonesia is no longer a contest between two candidates and their coalitions, but also a competition between two ideologies: a large Islamic coalition on one side and a nationalist secularist Islam and non-Islam on the other.

In the Indonesian political world today, the narrative seems to be: if you are on Jokowi’s side then you are anti-Islam, if you are on Prabowo’s, then you are an extremist.

Bandung, Indonesia – Take a look – Ali Yahya

Is it always bad?

One thing you can’t deny is that polarisasi politik triggers people’s curiosity and it motivates them to gather more information about their candidate. In today’s world, social media and group chats have made this information easy to obtain. With a few clicks, people can follow a conversation about politics via trending topics and comment sections.

The latest study reports that polarisasi stimulates people’s participation in politics. Alan Abramowitz (a professor of political science at Emory University) argues that polarization engages the public and increases participation in the electoral process. It has been noted in Indonesia that the number of voters who made use of their right to vote in the 2014 presidential election reached 70%. Not to mention that in the Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2014, voter turnout reached 70%, compared to 66.7% in 2012.

Jakarta, Indonesia – Women only car – Georgina Captures

Polarisasi politik also motivates people to actively monitor the work of the government – with their own reasons, mind you – but nevertheless they are actively involved in the political process. The government is then required to be more transparent and accountable. In the period before the upcoming presidential election in 2019, the candidates (at least the ones with a good head on their shoulders) will also feel the urge to do the same with their campaigns and promises.

It seems logical that polarisasi politik could strengthen democracy if both sides would just stop using identity politics and negative campaigning to attack their rivals. It also seems logical that polarisasi politik would benefit democracy if people were to first check the authenticity of news or a story before sharing it on social media or in group chats. But the thing is, when you have decided to support one side no matter what, your heart has already decided that for you, and I’m afraid there’s not much room left for logic.

Rina Sitorus


Photo 1: Borobudur, Indonesia – Mountain fog – Sebastian Staines (Shutterstock)

Photo 2: Bandung, Indonesia – Downtown – Ikhsan Assidiqie (Unsplash)

Photo 3: Bandung, Indonesia – Shopping – Fikri Rasyid (Unsplash)

Photo 4: Bandung, Indonesia – On the street – Fikri Rasyid (Unsplash)

Photo 5: Bali, Indonesia – In the shade – Johan Mouchet (Unsplash)

Photo 6: Surabaya, Indonesia – Waiting – Niko Lienata (Unsplash)

Photo 7: Bandung, Indonesia – Take a look – Ali Yahya (Unsplash)

Photo 8: Jakarta, Indonesia – Women only car – Georgina Captures (Shutterstock)




Cinemblem: Perypatetik youtube channel

The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes

Alencar, Joana. Lack of Social Trust – Brazil. January 2019.

Baccino, Alejandra. Polarization within Ourselves – South America. January 2019.

Cordido, Veronica. Hanging by Extremes – Venezuela. January 2019.

Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Extremism Is Now the New Hype? – Spain. February 2019

Montano, Osvaldo. Progress in the Face of Polarization – Bolivia. February 2019.

Romano, Mavi. Censorship and Cultural Survival in a World without Gods – Spain. January 2019.

Sepi, Andreea. A World of Victims and Perpetrators? – Germany and Romania. February 2019.

Wallis, Toni. Walls and Resettlement – South Africa and Angola. February 2019.

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

Alencar, Joana. Uncertainty – Our Spirit – Brazil. November 2018.

Awdejuk, Pawel. Niepewność – The Road to Freedom – Poland. July 2018.

Bell, Sarah. The Bushfire Drive – Australia. July 2018.

Bondarenko, Evgeny. Twenty Plus Years. August 2018.

Cajoto, Christina. The Trajectory of Life – España. August 2018.

Castañeda, Martha Corzo. Worried Workers – Peru. February 2018.

Cooleridge, Tweeney. Uncertainty in the Abstract – Slovakia. March 2018.

Cordido, Veronica. The Crib of Uncertainty – Venezuela. January 2018.

Dastan, S.A. Uncertain Waters – Turkey. March 2019.

Deiana, Sara. The Dark Side of Perfection. September 2018.

Electra P. Aβεβαιότητα: The Enemy of Romantic Relationships – Greece. February 2018

Escandell, Andrea da Silva. Compromise – Uruguay. March 2018

Fischer, Kristin. Talking about Cancer – Germany. September 2018.

Gómez, Javier. Uncharted Bliss. October 2018

Goumiri, Abdennour. Uncertainty Is All There Is – France. February 2018.

Guerrero, Marilin. Crossing the Uncertain Path of Life – Cuba. February 2018.

Guillot, Iuliana. Preparing for Change – Romania. June 2018.

Huihao, Mu. Going the Uncertain Way. July 2017.

Husaini, Maha. Inshallah – Jordan. December 2018

Israyelyan, Mania. 30 Years of Anoroshutyun – Armenia. December 2018.

Julber, Lillian. What Will Tomorrow Bring? – Chile. July 2018.

Kanunova, Nigina. Metamorphoses in Modern Life. June 2018.

Kingsley, Anastasia. Expect the Unexpected. November 2018.

Konbaz, Rahaf. So You Say You Want A Revolution – Syria. March 2018.

Korneeva, Kate. One We – Russia. April 2018.

Krnceska, Sofija. No Name Country – Macedonia. May 2018.

Lassa, Verónica. The Old Eastern Books of Uncertainty – Argentina. May 2018.

Lozano, Gabriela. El cuchillo de la incertidumbre : Piercing Uncertainty – México. January 2018.

Marti, Sol. A Thought Falling – Spain and Germany. December 2018.

Pang, Lian. Now or Later? October 2018.

Phelps, Jade. Healing Journey Pulls Us Apart – America. June 2018.

Protić, Aleksandar. Environmental Uncertainty. August 2018.

Romano, Mavi. An Uncertain Democracy – Spain. April 2018

Ranaldo, Mary. Incerto or Flexible: Italia and UK. March 2018.

Ray, Sanjay Kumar. Once upon a Time in a Queue – India. November 2018.

Çakır, Peren. Building a Future in Times of Uncertainty – Argentina and Turkey. May 2018.

Sanmartín, Virginia. Qué Será, Será – Spain. June 2018.

Samir, Ahmed. Uncertainty in Personal Life. January 2018.

Sariñana, Alejandra González. A Brighter Future? – Mexico. December 2018.

Skobic, Aleksandar. Genetic Code Name: Unique – Bosnia and Herzegovina. December 2018.

Sekulić, Jelena. Nesigurnost of the Past, Present and Future – Serbia. June 2018.

Sem, Sebastião. Vagrant Poets. September 2018.

Sepi, Andreea. Uncertainties Galore – Germany. April 2018.

Sevunts, Nane. From Uncertainty to Newness. November 2018.

Sitorus, Rina. When Uncertainty Reaches the Land of Certainty – Indonesia and the Netherlands. May 2018.

Trojnar, Kamila. Ephemeral. October 2018.

Quintero, Jonay. The Fear of Not Knowing – España. January 2018.

Uberti, Alejandra Baccino. Adventure – Uruguay. September 2018.

Vuka. Lacking Uncertainty in Political Culture – Serbia. April 2018.

Wallis, Toni. Living for Today – South Africa. October 2018.

Younes, Ghadir. Economic Uncertainty in Life – Lebanon. Part 38.

Zakharova, Anastasiya. LGBQT – Russia. August 2018.

The Anthology of Global Instability

Alvisi, Andrea. Political and Social Instability: The Brexit Mess. May 2017.

Bahras. Unstable Air Pollution – Unstable Solutions: Mongolia. June 2017.

Bichen, Svetlana Novoselova. Mental and Cultural Instability: Russia and Turkey. February 2017.

Bondarenko, Evgeny. Hybrid War: Ukraine. December 2018.

Borghi, Silvana Renée. Living in Inestabilidad. September 2017.

Caetano, Raphael. Instabilidade emocional: Brazil. February 2017.

Çakır, Peren. On the Road in Search of Stability: Argentina and Turkey. June 2017.

Casas, Marilin Guerrero. Emotional Estabilidad: The Key To a Happy Life – Cuba. December 2017.

Charles-Dee. Social Onstabiliteit – South Africa. December 2017.

Cordido, Verónica. Instability, a Stable Reality: Venezuela and America. April 2017.

Dastan, S.A. The Stability of Instability: Turkey and Syria. March 2017.

D’Adam, Anton. Psychosocial Instability in Argentina and America: El granero del mundo and The Manifest Destiny. January 2017.

Delibasheva, Emilia. Political Instability: Electoral Coups in America and Bulgaria. December 2016.

Ellie. Angry Folk: Korea. June 2017.

Farid, Isis Kamal. Stability Is Not An Option – Egypt. August 2017.

Friedrich, Angelika. Introduction: The Emblem of Instability. September 2016.

Fondevik, Vigdis. Unstable Nature: Norway and Denmark. October 2016.

Ghadir, Younes. Political Instability – Lebanon. September 2017.

Gómez, Javier. The Way of No Way – Argentina and the UK. December 2017.

Gotera, Jay R. In Flux Amid Rising Local and Regional Tensions – Philippines. November 2017.

Guillot, Iulianna. Starting and Staying in Instability – Moldova. October 2017.

Gjuzelov, Zoran. The Нестабилност of Transition – Macedonia. November 2017.

Halimi, Sophia. Modern Instabilité: Youth and Employment in France and China. March 2017.

Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Embracing Instability – Spain. February 2017.

Kelvin, Sera. The Stability in Expecting Emotional Instability: Brazil. April 2017.

Konbaz, Rahaf. The Castaways: On the Verge of Life – Syria. August 2017.

Korneeva, Ekaterina. Instability… or Flexibility? July 2017.

Kreutzer, Karina. Hidden Instabilität – Ecuador and Switzerland. December 2017.

Krnceska, Sofija. Decades of Economic Instability – Macedonia. September 2017.

Kutscher, Karin. Inestabilidad in Interpersonal Relationships – Chile. October 2017.

Larousse, Annabelle. Legal and Emotional Instability in a Transgender Life – Ireland. August 2017.

Larrosa, Mariela. The Very Stable Spanish Instability. April 2017.

Lobos, José. Political Instability: Guatemala. May 2017.

Lozano, Gabriela. Estructuras Inestables: Vignettes of a Contemporary, Not Quite Collapsing Country – Mexico. November 2017.

MacSweeny, Michael. A House on a Hill – America. October 2017.

Mankevich, Tatiana. The Absence of Linguistic Cтабiльнасць: Does the Belarusian Language Have a Future? December 2016.

McGuiness, Matthew. Loving Lady Instability. November 2017.

Meschi, Isabelle. Linguistic Instabilité and Instabilità: France and Italy. November 2016.

Mitra, Ashutosh. The Instability of Change: India. January 2016.

Moussly, Sahar. The Instability of Tyranny: Syria and the Syrian Diaspora. December 2016.

Nastou, Eliza. Psychological Αστάθεια and Inestabilidad during the Economic Crisis: Greece and Spain. December 2016.

Nevosadova, Jirina. Whatever Happens, It Is Experience. May 2017.

Olisthoughts. Stable Instability – Moldova. October 2017.

Partykowska, Natalia. Niestabilność and адсутнасць стабільнасці in the Arts: Polish and Belarusian Theater. January 2017.

Payan, Rodrigo Arenas. Impotence – Venezuela and Columbia. September 2017.

Persio, P.L.F. Social Instabilità and Instabiliteit: Italy and the Netherlands. November 2016.

Pranevich, Liubou. Cultural Instability: Belarus and Poland. March 2017.

Protić, Aleksandar. Demographic Instability: Serbia. July 2017.

Romano, Mavi. Unstable Identities: Ecuador and Europe. October 2016.

Sekulić, Jelena. Нестабилност/Nestabilnost in Language – Serbia. August 2017.

Sepa, Andreea. Instabilitate vs. Stabilität: How Important Are Cultural Differences? – Romania and Germany. September 2017.

Shunit. Economic Instability: Guinea and Gambia. April 2017.

Shalunova, Marina. Language Instability: Russia. June 2017

Sitorus, Rina. Instabilitas Toleransi: Indonesia. May 2017.

Skrypka, Vladyslav. National нестійкість: Ukraine. July 2017.

Staniulis, Justas. Nestabilumas of Gediminas Hill and the Threat to the Symbol of the State: Lithuania. July 2017.

Sousa, Antonia. Social and Economic Instabilidade: Portugal. January 2017.

Vuka. My Intimate Imbalanced Inclination. March 2017.

Walton, Éva. Historical and Psychological Bizonytalanság within Hungarian Culture. January 2017.

Yücel, Sabahattin. The Instability of Turkish Education and its Effect on Culture and Language: Turkey. July 2017.

Zadrożna-Nowak, Amelia. Economic Instability: Poles at Home and the Polish Diaspora. November 2016.

Zakharova, Anastasiya. Instability in Relationships: Russia. April 2017.


CW 10 – Mexico – Alejandra Gonzalez Sarinana
CW 11 – Armenia – Armine Asryan
CW 12 – Serbia – Vuka Mijuskovic
CW 13 – Peru – Monica Valenzuela
CW 14 – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Aleksandar Skobic
CW 15 – Argentina – Julieta Spirito
CW 16 – Italy – Mary Ranaldo
CW 17 – Lebanon – Ghadir Younes
CW 18 – Cuba – Marilin Guerrero Casas
CW 19 – Ukraine – Evgeny Bondarenko
CW 20 – Uruguay – Andrea da Silva Escandell
CW 21 – Spain – Jazz Williams
CW 22 – Armenia – Mania Israyelyan
CW 23 – Poland – Pawel Awdejuk
CW 24 – Balkans – Aleksandar Protic
CW 25 – Italy – Daniela Cannarella
CW 26 – Serbia – Jelena Sekulic
CW 27 – Tajikistan – Nigina Kanunova
CW 28 – Portugal – Nuno Rosalino
CW 29 – Uruguay – Lillian Julber
CW 30 – Argentina – Javier Gomez
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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