Backward language, style and youth identity in an Indonesian elite school

Author: Irfan Rifai (University of PGRI Adi Buana Surabaya)
Speaker: Irfan Rifai
Topic: Language, community, ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


This article describes empirical evidence about backward language which is utilised as one of the ways to assert identity in an urban Indonesian high school. In a more specific, this study focuses on how the backward language can be a means of expressing individuals, group and school identity and how their investment of their identity influenced by the social, cultural and educational factors. Drawing on ethnographic research method for more than 5 months in an urban high school in Jakarta, the research findings show that when the social, cultural and educational factors within the school incline to index the identity formation through the using of backward language closely related to school violence activities, there has been a shifting function of the language – from mundane interactions to the practices of concealing ‘illegal’ activities within the school. The possible reason behind this indexical identity formation is due mainly that the backward language has been widely used by many people outside the school and the students tend to seek an alternative use of backward language to maintain their Identity, and school violence is available and a suitable arena for legitimation of Identity construction. This research findings, therefore, reiterate the view that identity is constructed, negotiated and contested.

Keywords: backward language, identity, elite school