By Foundation of Prof. Dr. Andrik Purwasito, DEA


Symbolic Conflict in Surakarta:

Study of Visual Ethnography based on data photograghy

By: Andrik Purwasito

Communication Department, Faculty of Social and Political Science University of Sebelas Maret, Surakarta, Indonesia..Presented in International Conference on Communication Studies, Hotel Sunan Surakarta, June, 6, 2012


Using photographs in ethnographic research is rather than a new way. This method starting examinations of the unique properties of photographic articulation, interpretation and use, employing the inherent ambiguities of photographic imagery. The ethnographic photographs of  urban community in Surakarta were recorded to understanding “conflict symbolic” through the visual representation. The photography, is the source (data), because its ‘informations’ and use to examining sociocultural continuity and change across generations in the certain communinity.[1]

Many differents ways to talk about the life style in generation like Jacob Langvad Nilsson continues to work persistently in a cross-field between editorial photojournalism and visual ethnography to tell stories about globalization and aspirations of individuals living in a changing world, in Brazil.

We have example as follow:

Juliana, Porto Alegre, Brazil for BOX1824/By Jacob Langvad Nilsson (email) — September 4th, 2011

The Brazilian Dream‘ (O Sonho Brasileiro) is a qualitative study of the young generation Brazilians, with focus on their dreams and desires. And also : The Young generations, consumerism, life style, individualism and globalisazation : The emerging markets Open link below [2]

2. Conflict symbolic in Surakarta seen from the Photography

In Surakarta, there are many zonas conflict symbolic. This paper I would like to expose just  the Gladag Centre City and the Solo Baru City. The Gladag Centre City, is look like the “cultural zone” because there are :

1). The facade of Karaton Surakarta Hadiningrat.


 2). The Vastenberg Fort,

 3).The Ancien Office Building.

4). Supermarket “Pasar Grosir Solo”

5). Bank of Indonesia

5). Bank of Bukopin

6). Bank of Central Asia

7). The Church

What Symbolic Conflict?

Based on the photography above, we may determine that the conflict symbolic shown by:

  1. The economic building (Bank, supermarket, mall) versus the cultural building (Vasternberg fort, The Ancien office, The Karaton) and so the religious building like the Church.
  1. We find the conflict symbolic between the New capitalism versus the “Five-food Traders.” This photography below shown us :

The interpretation

All of those photography, show us that the conflict in Surakarta is really the struggle of the maintanance of cultural heritage, small mercahant versus the present of the Big New Capitalism. The winner of this conflict probably is the Big New Capitalism. This answer based on the reality that more and more the emerging of new capitalism building like mall, supermarket, bank and hotel continue to be built.

The representation of this symbolic conflict is shown by the Statue of Slamet Riyadi. Why?

If we glance the statue, we have no special impression. Please regard carefully, why the Grand Statue posted in a Central Ville? We assume that the place is designed for the Occoupation Area.

It mean, this action is exactly symbole of the agression of the New Authority (symbolized by the Gun) against to  javanesse culture (Karaton Surakarta). The Javanesse culture symbolized by Karaton Surakarta is now collapse, considered “has no cultural power”  and look like abolished from the role as “icon” of Surakarta.

Assume that the conflict symbolic continued from generation to generation, and finally we think that in the future the javanesse culture disappearance replaced by the new capitalism culture.


We realize that all facts gives an overview to our ideas, and all display to us that the Power City (Goverment of Surakarta), tends to protect and develope the new capitalism in Surakarta and waiver of Karaton Surakarta as source of javanesse culture.


New Bourgeois District

Secondly, Solo Baru zone, known as the new economic zoning in Surakarta (placed in Sukoharjo territory). As the economic zoning, Solo Baru develope into the New Bourgeois District, characterized by the new real-estate and shopping complex.

In the past, on the reform movement this district is destructed by the rioter. Solo Baru is the district unsecure. Therefore, the professional communicators  try to change the face, from the pure economic activity to the cultural economic activity. The changes are shown through the emerging of the new cultural identity of the area, shown as below:

The Statue of Pendawa:

In Mahabharata epic, Pendawa is the symbol of goodness. The Five figur of Pendawa come to this site.


To avoid damage, the professional communicators take the spirit of javanesse culture through a respected teaching resource (Wayang). That is very simply decision but the effect of this way, combine the spirit of capitalism and the spirit of culture. That is peace policy, how to bring local knowledge (local genie) and the spirit of globalization.


[1]Dona Schwartz, Visual Ethnography: Using Etnhography in Qualitative Research, Photography that is part of an ethnographic research project
Ethnographers have long since used photography as part of their work. At the end of the nineteenth century the early anthropologist Haddon, used photography and film in his research and some of his materials can be found on line at
Since then the pioneering work of Mead and Bateson (1942) in Samoa is often cited as a key work in the establishment of the use of photography as an ethnographic recording method. In more recent years ethnographers working in anthropology and sociology have begun to not only make greater use of photography in their ethnographic research and representation of that work, but to think through these practices theoretically and methodologically. (more informations Sarah Pink at


4 responses

  1. Coy

    When I initially commented I seem to have clicked
    the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on
    each time a comment is added I receive four emails with the same comment.
    Perhaps there is a means you can remove me from
    that service? Thank you!

    03/06/2013 at 18:35

  2. You made some really good points there. I looked on the internet to learn more about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this website.

    30/05/2013 at 09:43

  3. Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like
    to send you an email. I’ve got some creative ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great website and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.

    12/05/2013 at 23:08

  4. Right here is the right blog for everyone who
    hopes to find out about this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost
    hard to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa).

    You certainly put a brand new spin on a topic that has been discussed for
    decades. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!

    10/05/2013 at 08:34

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s