Unity, Diversity, and “An Exercise in Futility”: An Exploration of the Moral Experiences of Indonesians of Diverse Sexualities During the 2019 General Election.

Mr Kade Newell1

1UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Since the onset of the 2016 ‘LGBT crisis’, Indonesians of diverse sexualities have faced unprecedented levels of discrimination and violence. In 2019, grassroots and national political actors continued to disseminate anti-LGBTQ stigmatisation as a strategy to bolster election campaigns. This study puts forward that protecting the moral values of families, religions, and the Indonesian nation underpins the politically motivated stigmatisation of LGBTQ behaviours and identities during and following the 2019 general election.  These values intersect to form the societal boundaries of moral cohesiveness in Indonesian society, the strength and permeability of which are controlled by powerful actors in evolving political climates. By exploring media reports, political statements, and first-hand accounts of anti-LGBTQ stigmatisation, this study finds that Indonesians of diverse sexualities are constantly negotiating their lived experiences according to the subject positions developed by moral discourse, i.e. their subjectivities in relation to social moral boundaries. An understanding of the lived experiences of LGBTQ Indonesians as inherently moral provides a new conceptual framework to explore the emerging question of how LGBTQ subjectivities are shaped by Indonesian cultural, moral structures. This framework contributes to future research that applies both moral and queer anthropological understandings of lived experience to evolving political climates.


Kade Newell is a recently graduated honours student from UNSW Sydney. Kade’s research focusses on anthropology in Indonesia, and his thesis studied how cultural moralities shaped LGBTQ lived experiences during the 2019 election. Kade hopes to pursue a career in queer anthropological research.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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