Performing identity in public spaces
Reflecting on my recordings of everyday life in Indonesia (I am working on a longitudinal audiovisual project recording daily life at eight locations in Indonesia) I noticed that people often use the public domain to express some kind of identity.
Of course we are familiar with officials dressing up in uniforms to give them a recognizable identity, and to add a special authority or status to that identity. However, more often than we might expect ‘ordinary’ people take part in public manifestations of specific identities or sub-identities.
For example, by occupying the public space to perform religious gatherings or to enjoy being with peers and express otherness. There seem to be at least three requirements to make such a performance of identity meaningful.
First there needs to be another, or a public to witness the performance; secondly enough people of ‘we’ have to be present to give the performance meaning’; and finally the arena should be the public space in order to make the performance of identity effective.
In my paper I will discuss these performances of identity, using clips from my recordings like Islamic meetings, motor clubs, gay scenes , re-enactors and zombie groups. I will raise questions about the need for public sphere and use of symbols in the performances, as well as questions dealing with differences between these identity manifestations.