Postgraduate Lunch Seminar – Roy Thaniago on ‘Decoding Tionghoa Positionality in Contemporary Indonesia’

On Monday the 2nd of October at 11.30am Indonesia Forum had its first 2023 event: a Lunchtime Seminar by Roy Thaniago, Indonesian PhD student from Geneva Graduate Institute, Switzerland titled “Everyday Shop Life: Decoding Tionghoa Positionality in Contemporary Indonesia.” There was a lively discussion attended by Indonesian academic colleagues at the University of Melbourne, our Indonesian postgraduate and undergraduate students, and also Indonesian postgraduates from Monash.

Detail of Roy’s presentation and biography is included below:

This study aims to gain new insights into the positionality of the Tionghoa community within contemporary Indonesian society by investigating the dynamics of everyday shop life. Shops, as the most typical place for Tionghoa to be found, associated with, and romanticised to be in, form a social and political site where cross-group encounters take place at the most mundane level. In this ethnographic study, shops are at the heart of celebration of everydayness, providing a way to look at micro social interactions, networks, and boundaries, thereby supplementing studies on Tionghoa that predominantly focus on perceptions, attitudes, and discourses. By studying actions rather than beliefs, the research attempts to shed light on the practical aspects of ethnicity. To put it another way, rather than focusing on what people think about their own and others’ ethnicity, this study is more interested in what they do with it.

Nestled within Makassar’s gold trading street, the research situates itself within the backdrop of “pribumi” and “non-pribumi” categorical constructs.


Roy Thaniago is a doctoral candidate in the Anthropology and Sociology Department at Geneva Graduate Institute in Switzerland. He is interested in how ethnicity plays a role in everyday urban life, and conversely, how the urban environment affects ethnicity’s role in forming social identities, boundaries, and networks. He graduated from Pelita Harapan University in Indonesia with a bachelor’s degree in music and from Lund University in Sweden with a master’s degree in media and communication studies. Roy founded and served as executive director of Remotivi, a Jakarta-based media research and monitoring institute.