In the global neoliberal economy, material and immaterial production increasingly happen on opposite ends of the world where they are assigned different social and economic value and serve to perpetuate stark inequality between increasingly large, transnational corporations and small, local manufacturers. Not everyone, however, accepts the terms of this arrangement. This article chronicles the efforts of Indonesian DIY fashion labels to undermine the global regime of immaterial labor. It argues that DIYers challenge neoliberal business as usual in at least three ways: (1) by seizing the means of material production and making garments on their own terms; (2) by recombining material and immaterial processes of production into a single continuous act; and (3) by treating the brand—the symbolic, legitimizing force of labor inequality—not as the active subject of global capital it has no doubt become, but as an object, ripe for appropriation and manipulation. [Keywords: brands, trademark, fashion, youth, immaterial labor, circulation, globalization, Indonesia]
Cultural Anthropology has published a number of articles on labor dynamics in neoliberal contexts, including Alexander Dent's "Piracy, Circulatory Legitimacy, and Neoliberal Subjectivity in Brazil" (2012), Andrea Muelebach's "On Affective Labor in Post-Fordist Italy" (2011), Ahmed Kanna's "Flexible Citizenship in Dubai: Neoliberal Subjectivity in the Emerging “City-Corporation” (2010).
Cultural Anthropology has also published articles on Indonesia. See for example, Brent Luvaas's "Dislocating Sounds: The Deterritorialization of Indonesian Indie Pop" (2009), Karen Strassler's “The Face of Money: Currency, Crisis, and Remediation in Post-Suharto Indonesia” (2009), Nil Bubandt's “From the Enemy's Point of View: Violence, Empathy, and the Ethnography of Fakes” (2009), and Kenneth George's "Ethics, Iconoclasm, and Qur'anic Art in Indonesia" (2009).
About the Author
Brent Luvaas is Assistant Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Culture and Communication at Drexel University. He is also the new Co-Editor of Visual Anthropology Review, the journal of the Society for Visual Anthropology. His work, on independent, amateur, and DIY cultural production, has previously appeared in Cultural Anthropology, Visual Anthropology Review, Fashion Theory, and The International Journal of Cultural Studies, among other places. He is currently conducting an experimental auto-ethnographic, open-source fieldnotes project on street style bloggers and their ambiguous, insider/outsider position within the global fashion industry. You can follow its progress at www.urbanfieldnotes.com. His first book, DIY Style: Fashion, Music, and Global Digital Cultures, was released by Berg Publishers in October of 2012.
Red and White Magz, a Facebook page/online magazine promoting various Indonesian DIY and indie brands
The Goods Dept website, a Jakarta store promoting upmarket independent brands
White Board Journal, a Jakarta website that features frequent articles on indie/DIY fashion
Luvaas, Brent (2012) DIY Style: Fashion, Music, and Global Digital Cultures. London and New York: Berg Publishers.
Luvaas, Brent (2010) "Designer Vandalism: Indonesian Indie Fashion and the Cultural Practice of Cut 'n' Paste," in Visual Anthropology Review 26(1): 1-16.
Uttu (2006) "Distro: Independent Fashion Moves from Margins to Mainstream," in Inside Indonesia Jan-March 2006.
Wallach, Jeremy (2003) "'Goodbye My Blind Majesty': Music, Language, and Politics in the Indonesian Underground," in Global Pop, Local Language, Harris M. Berger and Michael Thomas Carroll, eds. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press: 53-86.