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Afterlives and Alter-lives

How Competitions Produce (Neoliberal?) Subjects in Indonesia

Nicholas J. Long


Indonesia has long employed competitions as means of improving ‘human resource quality,’ believing competitions to elicit fantasies of achievement that, even if unrealized, motivate participants to self-cultivate in ways generative for the nation. Meanwhile, scholarly critics argue that such policies encourage a counterproductive competitive individualism that serves the interests of neoliberal capitalism. This article complicates both of these understandings of what competition does. I show that Indonesians may participate in competitions out of a desire to provide for, and receive recognition from, family, mentors, and the state. When the afterlives of competition fail to live up to this ideal, competitors can become alienated from the relations and institutions they blame for thwarting the ‘alter-life’ that could have been, subsequently embracing individualism and the market.

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Utopian Sociality. Online

Nicholas J. Long

The metaworld Ultima Online was designed to foster 'tight communities' of inhabitants. So ware users frequently say it has done just that. Yet many users spend most of their time online alone, engaged in practices of self-realization, individuation, and skill maximization. Drawing on Wilde's utopian writings, I suggest that Ultima Online has fostered an emergent sociality of sympathetic individualism - but that characterizing this as 'community', 'friendship' and 'camaraderie' also allows users to engage with seemingly opposed communitarian tropes of the good life. This affords insights into how ethical imaginations influence emergent forms of human sociality.

Free access

Sociality Revisited

Setting a New Agenda

Nicholas J. Long and Henrietta L. Moore

It is time for a revitalized theory of human sociality. This theory recognizes that humans are always embedded in a dynamic matrix of relations with human, non-human, and inhuman others, but combines this recognition with attention to the distinctive capacities of human subjects. It thus builds on recent theories of actor-networks and affect, whilst going beyond their limitations.