Creative voices of the city: Articulating media, space and cultural identities by creative collectives in Southeast Asia

Creative voices of the city: Articulating media, space and cultural identities by creative collectives in Southeast Asia
This thesis investigates the lived cultures of the individuals within collectives who are part of creative cities in Southeast Asia. Such individuals and their creative collectives are all too often rendered silent and unnoticed within the official narratives of creative city branding. This monograph thesis examines the articulation of creative collectives in two cities: the creative city of Bandung in Indonesia and the creative, heritage city of George Town in Malaysia. The research draws upon the intersections between media and cultural studies, everyday life studies and urban cultures, to understand how the tactics of individuals within the creative collectives disrupt, or counteract, official narratives and the top-down strategies of Bandung and George Town as UNESCO-inscribed cities. This thesis gives priority to the voices of the city dwellers from a bottom-up approach, enriching academic discussions on everyday life, culture and creative cities within the field of urban media and communication. Methodologically, this research combines ethnography and visual methodology, providing a situated and nuanced context for street-level analysis of Bandung and George Town, in particular analysing how spatial and visual contexts are significant aspects of urban creative collectives.

The analysis illuminates the creative politics of space and placemaking in local settings, highlighting how the collectives in this study form alternative spaces to live and work, developing an organic and dynamic interplay between the physical, social and digitally mediated spaces of creative cities. A key argument concerns the articulation of alternative voices through the form of ‘subtle resistance’ by creative collectives, signposting small, micro level tactics as a form of cultural resistance to creative city branding and top down narratives of creative economies in Southeast Asia. Through an analysis of themes related to spatial practice in the city, cultural memory and cultural identity, the ethnographic and visual research offers a lens within which to understand and value everyday creative practices such as inventiveness and resourcefulness. The articulation of various identities, as urban dwellers, artists, craftspeople and creative collectives, offers a powerful alternative understanding of what it means to live and make do in the local streets, creative hubs and residential neighbourhoods of Southeast Asian creative cities.


Zaki Habibi

Defended in

1 Nov 2020 – 31 Dec 2020

PhD defended at

Department of Communication and Media, Faculty of Social Sciences, Lund University, Sweden


Social Sciences


Southeast Asia


Art and Culture