Ambiguity of Images

Visualizing Ethnic/Racial Differences in Indonesian TV Advertisements during the New Order and the Post-New Order Era

  • Ratna Noviani (Autor/in)


Advertising imagery relating to ethnicity/race can provide significant cues to reveal the prevailing discourse about ethnic/racial relations in society and, most importantly, about a perceived majority's assumption in relation to a perceived minority. This study is concerned with the ways in which TV advertisements construct discursive strategies to define and represent ethnic/racial differences in Indonesia. By means of social semiotics and narrative analysis, this study examines how Indonesian TV advertisements rendered overtones and undertones of the ethnic/racial differences existing in Indonesia during the New Order (particularly in the period from 1993 to 1999) and the Post-New Order era (particularly from 1999 to 2005). A close examination of the advertisements demonstrates that TV commercials have articulated and reproduced relations between the ethnic/racial majority and minority existing in the country. It has been revealed that Indonesian TV advertisements employ two kinds of discursive strategies to define and construct ethnic/racial differences in Indonesia, viz. the ambivalent function of cultural tradition and cultural appropriation by mainstreaming the minorities. In line with the shift in the sociopolitical climate in Indonesia and in the face of globalization, TV commercials tend to change their discursive strategies in visualizing ethnic/racial relationships in Indonesia.