Punk Activism and Its Repression in China and Indonesia: Decolonizing "Global Punk"

Jian Xiao, Jim Donaghey

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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Punk's global spread has been a defining aspect of its forty-plus year history; contemporary punk can only be understood in relation to this global punk network. Punk's transmission from place to place is shaped by neocolonial cultural flows, but punk scenes also respond to their particular contexts, and analysis of local punk scenes must consider this contextuality carefully alongside a "global punk" framing. "Other" punk places cannot be simply judged via a reductive neocolonial imposition of Anglo-American punk norms—an "inter Asia" comparison of the punk scenes of China and Indonesia is an example of this critical decentering and acts as a decolonizing intervention into "global punk." Punks embrace this "global punk" network and are acutely conscious of its contours—it is only in the repression of these punk communities (or in some academic circles) that the "cultural imperialist" framing is maintained, with punk in Indonesia and China dismissed by the authorities (or scholars) as Western imports. This article briefly traces the histories of punk's emergence in China and Indonesia, in the years leading up to, and following, transitional periods of their authoritarian regimes through the very late 1980s and 1990s, discusses and compares contemporary forms of punk resistance and activism in each place, including DIY cultural production and manifestations of "punk space" in Indonesia and China, before highlighting repression from state and para-state institutions in these now "post-authoritarian" and "softened authoritarian" contexts.

Cross-comparative study of these places sheds critical light on the experiences of punk there, especially with regard to punk activism (informed by anarchism) and its repression. While direct interconnections between the punk scenes of China and Indonesia are relatively sparse, this exercise in comparative analysis grounds the locally lived experience of punk in a "global punk" framing, which is essential to understanding punk cultural production, activism, and resistance in these "other" punk places. This article is based on several periods of ethnographic research by the authors (from 2012 to 2018).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-63
Number of pages36
JournalCultural Critique
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 22 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
14. This research is supported by the 2022 Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities.


  • punk
  • anarchism
  • Indonesia
  • China
  • repression
  • activism
  • decolonisation
  • Decolonization
  • culture
  • music
  • transmission
  • neo-colonialism
  • neocolonialism
  • cultural production
  • DIY
  • do-it-yourself
  • comparative
  • post-authoritarian
  • authoritarianism
  • ethnography


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