‘Life in the positive way’: Indonesian straight edge and the limits of lifestyle politics

Sean Ryan Martin-Iverson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article I examine the contested and equivocal role of ‘straight edge’ as a
subcultural identity and lifestyle practice within the Indonesian DIY hardcore punk scene. Associated with a personal commitment to abstain from alcohol and drug use, straight edge was also understood by many in the Indonesian scene as a ‘positive punk’ movement for both self-transformation and progressive social change, reclaiming an authentic punk philosophy of autonomy and community from the ‘negative’ performance of transgressive rebellion. However, as the scene became entangled in both neo-liberal processes of commercialization and a resurgence of Islamic conservatism, many of those committed to positive punk began to question the role of straight edge and its relationship to DIY production as an anti-capitalist creative practice. Through a critical assessment of the lifestyle politics of straight edge in the Indonesian scene, I explore the potentials and limits of subcultural identity practices for emancipatory politics. Entangled in contradictory discourses and practices of collective identity, personal choice, subcultural authenticity, and anti-capitalist activism, straight edge both helped to cohere a distinct anti-capitalist DIY hardcore current within the Indonesian punk scene and constrained the political potential of DIY practices within a framework of subcultural identity and lifestyle. I situate this specific history of straight edge in the Indonesian scene within a broader analysis of the contradiction within DIY punk between building positive personal and social
alternatives and critically negating existing modes of identification and sociality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-261
Number of pages29
JournalPunk & Post-Punk
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


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