Class Cultures, Market Forces and the Desegregation of Indian Schools

Dr Amanda Gilbertson1, Ms Joyeeta Dey1

1University Of Melbourne, Australia

We know that market forces lead to segregation in education systems, but we know little about their interaction with efforts to desegregate schools. This paper explores implementation of a desegregation policy in India that requires private schools to give free education to socially and economically disadvantaged children. In a context of policy implementation characterised by private school resistance and lack of political will, we draw on ethnographic research in three schools that are ostensibly committed to implementing the policy well. Class cultures and market forces intersect in the desegregation efforts of these schools, each of which is differently positioned in terms of hierarchies of reputation, economic accessibility and social composition. Each adopts a different approach to balancing the demands of integration and potential reputational costs in a middle-class market – taking a few students, expecting them to assimilate and taking pride in a benevolent invisibilization of differences, versus adapting the school culture to meet the needs of disadvantaged students but consequently losing status among middle-class families. Regardless of the approach of the schools, the very presence of disadvantaged students in these schools unsettles the commercialization of school spaces, language practices, ideals of the responsible parent-as-educator, and the commodification of education.


Amanda Gilbertson is an anthropologist with research interests in class, gender and education in India. She was a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Melbourne and is now exploring implementation of India’s Right to Education Act (ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award).

Joyeeta Dey is currently a research associate on a University of Melbourne project on the Right to Education in India. She previously worked as a researcher on a DFID funded research project RAISE on accountability relationship in the education system. She has a masters in Sociology of Education from UCL, IOE.

Precarity, Populism and Intra-Oligarchic Conflicts

Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir6

6 Department of Sociology, State University of Jakarta, and Asia Institute, University of Melbourne , , Australia

Studies on precarity have argued that the increasing socio-economic insecurity due to the expansion of neoliberal market undermines democratic polity by way of providing ingredient for reactionary populist politics. As such proposition is mostly based on European experience, Indonesian case illustrates different trajectory of the relationship between precarity and democracy. This is because the working class in this country has long been precarious, relatively without socio-economic protection, even before the introduction of flexible labour regime. Furthermore, leftist politics that concerns with the working class’ interests has long been destructed, while democracy has been in decay since it was introduced two decades ago due to the domination of oligarchic politics. Within this context, identity politics has indeed been pervasive in the electoral contests, but why has right-wing populism appeared most dramatically after 2014? It is argued here that intra-oligarchic conflicts represented in the 2014 presidential election are key to understand such a dramatic rise of reactionary populist politics expressed through the mobilisation of Islamic and nationalist sentiments. Hence, the increasing precarity does not necessarily give rise to right-wing populism as it has more to do with the escalating national-level divisive competition among oligarchic elites.


Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir is a PhD candidate at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne, and a lecturer at the Department of Sociology, State University of Jakarta. His article ‘Islamic Militias and Capitalist Development in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia’ won the 2018 Journal of Contemporary Asia Best Article Prize.

Precariat without Proletariat? Something Strange Happens Along the Way to Class-Formation among Creative Urbanites

Dr Hizkia Yosias Polimpung4

4Faculty of Communications, Universitas Bhayangkara , , Indonesia

What does ‘class’ mean in the designation of precariats as the new ‘dangerous class’? This article starts with a critique of the existing narrative practices of discounting proper capitalist class relations in the discussion about precariat. It does not content however with just exposing the omission of the imperative topics in class analysis–such as value production, labor process, and mode of accumulation–in the mainstream storytellings, both inside and outside academia. The paper further argues that this omission is dialectically determined by the deviation of precariats’ class formation from prior ones already happened in the past. Drawing from 30 interviews with artistic/cultural workers in Jakarta, it is suggested that the precariats’ class formation is responsible for three phenomena related to worker’s conditions unique in contemporary capitalism: privatization of antagonism, dramatization of struggle and becoming-objective of resistance. Marxists believe that a proper class formation occurs when the workers consolidate themselves around common grievances against their bosses (class-in-itself), and from there they transform their grievances into a social bloc defined by an antagonism of class struggle (class-for-itself). However, in metropolitan Jakarta, something strange happens along the way to class formation among creative urbanites: they proclaim themselves precariat without remembering to be proletariat.


Dr. Hizkia Yosias Polimpung is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Communications and researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, both at Universitas Bhayangkara Jakarta Raya. His research intersects the contemporary mutation of post-Fordist capitalism, political economy of security, and Lacanian psychoanalysis.

Reproducing Precarity: Neoliberal Reconfiguration of Work Practices in Indonesian Apps-Enabled Ride-Hailing Service

Diatyka Widya Permata Yasih5

5Department of Sociology, Universitas Indonesia, and Asia Institute,  University of Melbourne and, , Australia

The rise of the “gig” economy – businesses relying on flexible workforces to deliver various services via apps – has transformed patterns of work in different ways. In advanced economies in the West and of East Asian countries, gig economy expands in a context where stable employment relationship used to be standard; while in middle-income economies, precarious work has long been normalized. By taking the case of urban situations in Jakarta, the paper examines the effect of the reconfiguration of work practices brought by GoJek and Grab – South East Asian start-up darlings – on workers experience and identity. The paper argues that the apps-enabled ride-hailing service exposes workers to a distinct form of precarious work, where the digitized control over work process sustain the illusion of workers flexibility and autonomy. The expansion of the business model is conditioned by and in return reproduces workers’ preferences for and desires to act as the neoliberal entrepreneur-self, amidst the pervasiveness of the informal sector and the inadequacy of the social protection system. Despite discontentment over working conditions, workers accept the logic of competition and inequality as the organizing principle of the society, conditioning their relentless self-exploitation as a way to cope with increasing precarity.


Diatyka Widya Permata Yasih is Lecturer at the Department of Sociology, Universitas Indonesia, and a PhD candidate at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. Her work, “Jakarta’s Precarious Workers: Are They A New Dangerous Class”? was published by Journal of Contemporary Asia in 2017.

Precarity and Piety: Preliminary Findings from Jakarta Millennial Survey 2019

Dr Ariane Utomo1, Dr Inaya Rakhmani2, Dr Bagus Takwin3

1School Of Geography, University Of Melbourne, Australia, 2Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Indonesia, , Indonesia, 3Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Indonesia, , Indonesia

This article considers the link between the rising appeal of conservative Islam as a reaction towards precarious labour conditions. By taking the case of capital city Jakarta’s “millennials”, large cohorts of young adults and adults are facing multiple labour market challenges. These include premature deindustrialisation, lingering informality, the casualisation of formal sector jobs, and a high rate of youth unemployment. This paper argues that narratives on Islamic lifestyling are becoming increasingly appealing, as they fill the growing void left by the gradual disappearance of financially rewarding and upward-mobility enabling formal sector jobs. We use data from the Jakarta Millennial Survey 2019 (n=600, mean age=26) to look at the interplay between multiple dimensions of precarity, piety, and social identities. About 22% of our respondents reported that they sometimes/often worry about losing their jobs and/or finding a job. Among Muslim respondents, our preliminary findings suggest a positive association between job-related anxieties and the believe that Islam is under threat. We situate these findings in the broader intersections between the demographic window of opportunity, the conservative turn, and the future of work in Indonesia.


Dr Ariane Utomo is a Lecturer in Demography at the School of Geography, The University of Melbourne. Her work examines how social change are reflected in attitudes to gender roles, school-to- work transition, women’s employment, marriage and the family, and the nature of inequalities and social stratification in Indonesia.

Dr. Inaya Rakhmani is Assistant Professor and Head of the International Communication Class at the Department of Communication, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences. Universitas Indonesia, and member of the Indonesian Young Academy of Sciences (ALMI). Inaya is the author of “Mainstreaming Islam in Indonesia” published by Palgrave MacMillan.

Dr. Bagus Takwin is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Psychology and adjunct at the Demographic Institute, Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitas Indonesia. His work spans across the areas of self and identity, philosophy of psychology, personalities of political actors, social justice, well-being and positive institutions

Precarity and Populism as Neo-liberal Contradictions: Failed Promises of the “Demographic Bonus”

Dr Ariane Utomo1, Dr Inaya Rakhmani2, Dr Bagus Takwin3, Dr Hizkia Yosias Polimpung4, Diatyka Widya Permata Yasih5, Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir6

1School Of Geography, University Of Melbourne, Australia, 2Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Indonesia, , Indonesia, 3Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Indonesia, , Indonesia, 4Faculty of Communications, Universitas Bhayangkara , , Indonesia, 5Department of Sociology, Universitas Indonesia, and Asia Institute,  University of Melbourne and, , Australia, 6 Department of Sociology, State University of Jakarta, and Asia Institute, University of Melbourne , , Australia

Chair: Ariane Utomo


As a consequence of neo-liberal restructuring, there has been an increase of labour market flexibility in the developed and developing world. This panel unpacks the complexities and contradictions in these transformative processes by scrutinising the “demographic bonus” in Southeast Asia’s largest economy and fourth largest democracy in the world—Indonesia. Recent discussions on Indonesia’s changing age structure have focused on the demographic window of opportunity. This entails a promising economic and democratic future from having large cohorts of productive, entrepreneurial, and politically engaged young adults. What is often forgotten is that such a rosy picture is dependent upon  a set of preconditions concerning human capital, job creation, and social cohesion. The lack of these preconditions has manifested in forms of social inequalities which foregrounded the rise of right-wing populist narratives in Indonesia. Against the background of demographic and political transitions, our panel focuses on precarious employment and the revival of conservative ideals among young urban Indonesians. We discuss interrelated issues around schooling and skilling, informality, premature deindustrialisation, the gig economy, inequality, precarity, Islamic piety, and democracy.  Accounting for the changing nature of work faced by large cohorts of young adults is key to understand the effects of neo-liberalism in Indonesia.

Chinese Mergers and Acquisitions-Type Outward Foreign Direct Investment: A Potential Impact on Labor Conditions in China?

Mr Wanlin Ren1

1World Trade Institute, University Of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

China’s Outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) has been growing rapidly since the beginning of the 21st Century, with considerable investment in developed economies with the form of Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As). M&A-type FDI has a profound economic and social impact on both the investor and the target firm. Chinese firms have been showing enthusiasm for M&A deals in Europe after the 2008 economic crisis: Many renowned European companies have been taken over by Chinese owners, especially in the manufacturing industries. How would this new phenomenon affect labor issues, especially given the fact that labor protection in Western Europe enjoys high standards and restrictive regulations than Chinese ones? Would this become a potential channel for labor diffusion from Europe to China? This paper addresses the relationship between M&A-type of Chinese OFDI and its potential social influences on labor issues in China. A panel data empirical analysis based on Thomas Reuter’s Securities Data Company (SDC) Platinum database shows that the difference of labor conditions between China and Europe is decreasing when Chinese capital flowing into Western Europe. It may suggest an improvement of labor conditions in China. This result holds with a narrow-defined working condition variable but not with working hours.


Wanlin Ren is a political science doctoral student within the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) project “BRICS globalization and labour protections”. His research focuses on the impact of growing outflow Chinese foreign investment on labour issues in China.

Originally from Beijing, Wanlin has extensive professional experience before the PhD studies. He has worked for the United Nations Office for Project Service (UNOPS) in Copenhagen; the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and UN Office in Geneva; the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) in New York; and the US – China Business Council (USCBC) in Washington DC.

Wanlin has a Master of International Economics from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) and a Master of Arts in International Affairs from the American University in Washington DC. He obtained his Bachelor of Economics from the Capital Normal University in Beijing.

Analysing Women in Work in Earthquake Recovery Measures on the North-Eastern Coast of Japan

Dr Reina Ichii1

1RMIT, , Australia

In March 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake triggered Tsunami on the north-eastern coast of Japan which damaged local economy. Since this unexpected natural disaster, the recovery measures have been enacted by the Japanese governments. However, gender issues in paid and unpaid work are not reflected in the design of these recovery measures. This paper examines gendered outcomes of work in the fishery industry on the north-eastern coast of Japan. With field observation and secondary data analysis, this study confirms that women workers are more vulnerable than men’s counterparts because of difficulties to access government support. It concludes that women’s participation in decision-making regarding the recovery process is of great significance to improve gender equality.


Reina Ichii is Program Manager of Master of International Development in RMIT University. With research interests across Asia, Reina applies critical feminist theories to understand women’s contributions to care economy with a focus on factors which influence women’s decision-making around work and care.

Narratives on Women’s Irregular Employment and Work-Family Balance in Japan

Professor Kaori Okano2

2LaTrobe, , Australia

The proportion of women in paid employment reached a record high of almost 70 percent in 2018.  The infamous M-curve relating women’s paid employment to age has flattened considerably in the last decade. But many more women than men are in so called irregular employment (hiseiki) which has poor working conditions. This paper examines narratives of individual choice for flexibility and family-work balance in relation to irregular paid employment, and considers how they contribute to maintaining the institutional structure of unequal power in employment. These narratives advance the interests of the dominant group (men in power) while simultaneously disadvantaging the minoritized group (women), although they are often cited by middle class married women with children and the general public. The study draws on the researchers’ interviews with 20 women who have been irregular workers, and regular workers who worked with irregular workers during their careers.


Kaori Okano, PhD, is a Professor in Japanese/Asian Studies in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University. She researches social inequality (minoritized social groups) and education, multicultural and antiracist education, the politics of eating at school, and the longitudinal study of life course. Her recent publications include: Discourse, gender and shifting identities in Japan (2018, with Maree), Rethinking Japanese Studies: Eurocentrism and the Asia-Pacific region (2018, with Sugimoto), and Nonformal education and civil society in Japan (2016).

Sexual Harassment Grey Zone: What Goes on in the ‘Workplace’ of Japan’s Politicians

Dr Emma Dalton1

1RMIT, , Australia

Regarding the representation of women in politics, yearly World Economic Forum and Inter-parliamentary Union surveys place Japan amongst developing countries, such as Malawi, India and Sierra Leone. There are many cultural and structural barriers to increased female political participation, and, in recent years, it has become increasingly clear around the world that sexual harassment is one of those barriers. Japan’s Equal Employment Opportunity Law stipulates that the prevention of workplace sexual harassment is the responsibility of the employer. Elected officials are not employed by anyone and thus measures to combat sexual harassment in politics are arbitrary in nature. Based on interviews with thirty Japanese politicians from rural and urban Japan and a case study of a legislative council in western Tokyo, this paper examines how different legislative assemblies and individual assembly members approach the issue. I argue that sexual harassment is both a cause and result of gender inequality in Japanese politics, and that the first step in countering it is increased numbers of women on councils. This paper also considers the gap between regional and urban legislative councils and finds that women in rural communities face higher hurdles than their urban counterparts.


Emma Dalton is a Japanese lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University. She has lectured at universities in Australia, New Zealand and Japan for over a decade in the areas of Japanese language and Japanese and Asian Studies. Her research interests include the relationship between women and the Japanese state, and especially the position of women in politics. She publishes widely for academic, student and media audiences.


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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