Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Communications and Arts

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Associate Professor Rod Giblett

Abstract

The overarching characteristic of the 2009 legislative elections lay in the legislative candidates’ politics of image. It stemmed from the amendment to the election Law no. 10/2008 article 214 that ostensibly cut off the parties’ power in determining their candidates without the public’s “direct” consent. The public was then given a direct opportunity to choose and vote for their preferred candidates in the 2009 elections. This marked the emergence and proliferation of the candidates’ image construction, especially in the “outdoor” political arena. Billboards were chosen as the most effective outdoor advertising medium to introduce the candidates and propagate their slogans and platforms. However, at the same time, this mode of introducing and propagating reveals itself as an ideological map that demonstrates the contestation and synthesis of the two major ideological camps in the Indonesian political arena, i.e. the nationalist and Islamic. The candidates were coopted into and by this framework. They themselves could not escape as their political dispositions were unconsciously defined by this framework. Their billboards speak loudly the ideological contestation and synthesis.

The investigation of the contestation and synthesis needs Bourdieuan analytical tools, such as capital, dispositions (habitus) and field. These are used not merely to show how the mechanism of the contestation and synthesis operated and was defined by the rules of political “game”, but also to show how this mechanism involves the intricate inter-relationships of various capitals, such as the political, social, economic, cultural and symbolic, that reflect the candidates’ (read also: the parties’) dispositions within the field of Pancasila discourse. Pancasila becomes not only an ideological basis for the state but also the bastion of the contestation and synthesis. The twin roles arguably derive from the dominant cultural root (Javanese) that highly values the concepts of harmony, tolerance and appropriateness as the essences that allow the ideological contestation and synthesis of the nationalist and Islamic strands as the dominant ideological markers in the Indonesian political arena.

This thesis aims to demonstrate how the candidates’ billboards represent ideological contestation and synthesis as the billboards can also be perceived as the candidates’ visual “responses” which reflect their political dispositions and the process of taking stances amidst the contestation and synthesis. Therefore, this study was conducted in the form of a layered case study. Using a Bourdieuan lens, the first layer explores the historical background of the contestation and synthesis, their proliferation in the political arena and the mechanism of deploying these strands in the political parties’ branding. Using a social semiotic lens, the second layer investigates how the billboards as the products of the candidates’ political articulation represent not only these contestations and syntheses but also their dispositions. I found that the system of representation (on the candidates’ billboards) operates within the Javanese ideals of “equilibrium” in Pancasila discourse. These ideals frame the power relations between the nationalist and Islamic factions in an ostensible “consensus” in order to maintain the harmony and dilute ideological friction.

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