Lost in Mall:An Ethnography of middle-class Jakarta in the 1990s
Shopping malls are spaces that have a variety of purposes and a range of users. Mall designers aim to create attractive environments that seduce, convince and attract consumers. Politicians have dreams that they will inspire, promote, and encourage growth in terms of the economy as well as growth of the middle class. Shopping malls are complex spaces: they provide a variety of functions while being subject to numerous methods of deconstruction, sometimes literal deconstruction, as in 1998 when some malls were damaged, looted, and set on
fire. This violence perpetrated against the space and architecture of the mall (whether organized, spontaneous, or otherwise) became a grand image of the fall of Soeharto’s government. Looting seemed like a transgression of the ur-ban poor into the semi-public spaces of Jakarta’s elites. The May riots became a nihilistic carnival in which a kind of quietude, banality and orderliness was replaced by rape, violence, and casual stealing. The state was seemingly absent. Lizzy van Leeuwen’s detailed and up-close examination, Lost in mall, provides an insightful account of everyday middle-class life in 1990s Jakarta. The book analyses trends that embody some of the dichotomies, paradoxes, and social-cultural forces that were played out during the late-90s Asian economic crisis and that have emerged in contemporary Indonesia more generally.
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