The value of the underground: punk, politics, and creative urbanism in Bandung, Indonesia

Sean Martin-Iverson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Drawing on my research into the hardcore punk scene in Bandung, Indonesia, I argue for the conceptual and social significance of ‘the underground’ as a form of radical social imagination that continues to creatively reshape urban life in Indonesia and across Southeast Asia. I adopt a politics of value approach to understand the underground as a cultural terrain across which multiple struggles over value take place, as well as the role of hardcore punk and other underground scenes in the transformation of creative work, urban space, cultural identities, and political movements. These underground scenes can be understood as sites of precarious, creative autonomy won through struggles over value, in the context of wider processes of class recomposition, urbanization, and generational change. Such scenes constitute shifting communities of creative workers, political activists and urban youth struggling for autonomy. Underground scenes also both contribute to and contest neoliberal forms of urban development, as in the conflicts and compromises associated with the implementation of ‘Creative City’ policies in Bandung. In doing so, these scenes draw on practices from global underground networks and local informal economies to develop new ways of organizing cultural production. Thus, I argue that the evidence from Bandung demonstrates that there remains significant value in the concept of ‘the underground’ for understanding the interfaces of cultural production, spatial organization, and political struggle in urban Southeast Asia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-135
JournalCultural Studies
Issue number1
Early online date16 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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