Yatun Sastramidjaja holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Amsterdam, where she also obtained her Master’s in Anthropology. She is currently a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and the Interdisciplinary Social Sciences (ASW) program at the University of Amsterdam. Previously she held research and teaching positions at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.
Yatun’s main research interests include youth and student activism, youth cultures and citizenship, urban cultures and place-making, heritage and memory cultures in Indonesia and more broadly Southeast Asia in a transnational context. In her PhD project, titled Playing politics: Power, memory, and agency in the making of the Indonesian student movement (publication forthcoming), she studied how political culture and socialisation, historical memories, and the personal narratives of student activists – as well as the interplay between them – affected the on-stage performances and off-stage dynamics of the student movement during, before, and after the New Order regime. She found that the student movement was significantly shaped by perpetual symbolic battles with the state, but also that the main significance of the student movement was not the political outcomes of these battles but rather the effects of participation on the student activists’ political sense of self and radical community.
In a current follow-up research, titled ‘Dedicated dissidents’, Yatun is examining to what extent the political sensibilities and connections previously established during student movement participation continue to inform the politicised careers and personal lives of this generation of activists at present. Yatun is currently also preparing a comparative research project on youth citizenship and multi-mediated dissent in Southeast Asia, which focuses on recent forms of youth civic dissent occurring at the interface of virtual and material spaces in urban Southeast Asia. The main question addressed is to what extent these novel forms of youth civic dissent destabilise established notions of citizenship, and how regional cultures, conditions, and connections shape the emergent modalities of ‘activist citizenship’ that they represent.
Yatun’s fascination with the cultural politics and political cultures of youth was aroused during her Master’s research on modern youth lifestyles in Indonesia during the final years of the New Order, which resulted in an award-winning thesis, Dromenjagers [Dream Hunters] in Bandung. Her fascination with youth agency also informed her postdoctoral research, at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, on the evolution of Indonesia’s ‘heritagescape’ in the context of globalisation; the final chapter of the resulting book, titled Performance of the past: Politics and practices of heritage in globalising Indonesia (forthcoming), is dedicated to the playful memory practices of youth heritage communities, in which the suppressed memories of the colonial past become a resource for critical awareness in the present. Furthermore, Yatun is a passionate teacher of Youth Cultures in a Transnational Context and other courses highlighting the experiences of youth.
Yatun is also a member of the editorial collective of Inside Indonesia, editorial assistant at American Ethnologist, and Member of the Board of the Antropologenberoepsvereniging (Dutch Anthropological Association).