Authenticity is much sought after; being described as inauthentic is an insult or an embarrassment. Being authentic suggests that a given behaviour or performance is reflective of a ‘trueness’ or ‘genuineness’ to one’s identity. From a social science perspective there is sometimes scepticism expressed about the historical faithfulness of purported behaviours - such as when something is referred to as an ‘invented’ tradition. However, what can be overlooked in such criticisms is an array of sociological and existential dynamics that are at play when authenticity is striven for. Likewise able to be overlooked is where the location of that authenticity is ostensibly founded; sometimes the trueness of the behaviour is located in local traditions that reach back into time immemorial, sometimes in a universal human and shared sameness, and sometimes with regard to a global phenomenon.
Punks, Monks and Politics explores the idea of authenticity as enacted in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. The collective contributions reveal the sometimes contradictory ways in which the dynamics of authenticity – its pursuit, its deployment, its politics – play out in very different contexts. Whether authenticity inheres in the local or the global, amongst the majority or within a subculture, on the outside of or within people, or in the past or the present, authenticity is nevertheless valued.
Introduction, Julian CH Lee and Marco Ferrarese / Section 1: Malaysia / 1. Heavy Metal Nothingness: Alluring Foreignness and Authenticity Construction in Early 2010s Malaysian Metal, Marco Ferrarese / 2. Religiosity as a ‘Currency’ of Authenticity: Islam and Group Identity Formation in Malaysia, Frederik Holst / 3. Close Encounters of the Authentic Kind: Exploring Love, Sex and Intimacy among Gay-Identifying Malaysian Men, Joseph N. Goh / 4. Ini Bukan Budaya Kita: This is not our Culture, Julian CH Lee / 5. A Postscript – Ini Budaya Kita: This is our Culture, Nikkola Mikocki-Bleeker, Julian CH Lee and Ceridwen Spark / Section 2: Indonesia / 6. Emplacing Punk: Subcultural Boundary Work and Space in Indonesia, Erik Hannerz / 7. ‘Punk Sejati’: The Production of ‘Do It Yourself’ Authenticity in the Indonesian Hardcore Punk Scene, Sean Martin-Iverson / 8. Authenticity and the Textiles of Sikka: An Essay on the Apposition of Values, E Douglas Lewis / 9. Culture as Art: From Practice to Spectacle in Indonesia, Greg Acciaioli / Section 3: Thailand / 10. If you don’t do it who fucking will? Authenticity and Do-it-Yourself Practices in Bangkok’s Underground Rock Subculture, Pablo Henri Ramirez Didou / 11. Questioning Thainess: Pleng Lukthung in the Twenty-first Century, Viriya Sawangchot / 12. Thailand after the 2014 coup: Restoring ‘Thai-style democracy’, Alessio Fratticcioli / 13. Buddhism and Authenticity in the Mountains of Southeast Asia, Sean Matthew Ashley / 14. Reshaping the Quest for ‘Authenticity’ in Home-Stay Tourism in Northeast Thailand, Rebekah Farrell
Julian CH Lee is Senior Lecturer in Global Studies at RMIT and a member of the Centre for Global Research. He is the author of Second Thoughts: On Malaysia, Globalisation, Society and Self, and the editor of Narratives of Globalization: Reflections on the Global Human Condition.
Marco Ferrarese is an independent researcher and freelance writer. He is author of Nazi Goreng, and Banana Punk Rawk Trails: A Euro-Fool's Metal Punk Journeys in Malaysia, Borneo and Indonesia, and has reported from all over Asia for a number of international publications including BBC, CNN and National Geographic Traveller.
Punks, Monks and Politics takes you on an excellent and timely exploration of contemporary struggles for and with authenticity in Southeast Asia. Despite discussions over many years about authenticity in the region, the debate on how to define authenticity in a global context is still underdeveloped. This volume advances the debate significantly, by revealing how the dynamics and politics of authenticity arises at the seams between performative insider vs. consumptive outsider positions, and between some people’s desire to remain connected with the past and other’s desire to produce culture that is true to their self-experience in the globalised now. The book also shows how, despite of all this diversity and contestation, authenticity remains central as a social currency and a fundamental value.
This is an important book that illuminates the cultural dynamics of a region whose increasingly pivotal role in world affairs has only begun to be appreciated. Through detailed, engaging case studies, the volume’s contributors explore the centrality of ideas regarding authenticity to an array of cultural phenomena, from Buddhism to textiles to heavy metal, in three adjoining Southeast Asian nations. The result is an overdue wake-up call for those who would minimize the strong affinities between indigenous and imported cultural formations across national, religious, and linguistic boundaries revealed by this volume’s unique focus.
Punks, Monks and Politics provides a cogent examination of authenticity through the lens (or perhaps the headphones?) of punk and heavy metal music in Southeast Asia. The chapters on these genres of music, alongside other chapters on politics and religion in the region, provide fertile ground for a nuanced and complex interplay between global and local understanding and creations of meaning, identity, and culture. Often these situations are understood and represented as all encompassing sites of either assimilation or resistance. The chapters in Punks, Monks and Politics instead articulate far less axiomatic negotiations taking place to create ‘authenticity.’ This volume should be on the reading list of anyone interested in globalization, youth culture, identity formation, Southeast Asia, or any combination of thereof.