Young Banyumasan Street Traders as Shapeshifters of Modernity: Refreshment, Production, and the Pursuit of Pranks and Jokes in Jakarta

  • Traci Marie Sudana University of the Sunshine Coast
Keywords: joking, anthropology, Indonesia, ethnography, street economy, street traders, Banyumasan, masculinities, globalization


Banyumasan Javanese people of Indonesia are often revered as funnier than other Javanese. Ethnographic accounts herein illuminate how young, Banyumasan street traders in Jakarta perform and participate in laughing, joking, and pranking at work. Intersectional analysis reveals the utility of joking and pranking as heuristics to understand the affective dimensions of status, stigmatization, migrating for work, and growing up in Indonesia. The polysemic nature of jokes and pranks reference camaraderie and othering, incongruities and expectations, agency and oppression, as well as intersubjective relations between young men at work. This view of Banyumasan street traders as urban jokers and jesters, producing and consuming humour “from below” for and about each other, departs from previous scholarship on humour in Java, which has focused on how clown characters in staged shadow puppet (wayang kulit) performances have asserted and perpetuated inequalities through a refined-unrefined (halus-kasar) binary whereby those deemed kasar are seen as lacking something. This article, in contrast, asserts the utility of jokes and pranks to refreshing and regenerating understandings of kasar, what it is to be human, and the temporalities, spatialities, and intersubjectivities of boys growing up and working in Indonesia’s street economy.

Author Biography

Traci Marie Sudana, University of the Sunshine Coast

Traci Marie Sudana (née Smith) is completing a Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia, where she teaches sociology and development studies. Traci commenced her Ph.D. at the Australian National University and undertook twenty-two months of ethnographic research in Indonesia traveling back and forth between Jakarta and Central Java to understand the lives of young men who become street traders. Traci’s perspective draws from socio-cultural and medical anthropology, with interests in globalization, street economies, street medicine, masculinities, and growing up in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

How to Cite
Sudana, T. M. (2021). Young Banyumasan Street Traders as Shapeshifters of Modernity: Refreshment, Production, and the Pursuit of Pranks and Jokes in Jakarta. Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, 13(1), 205-236. Retrieved from
Articles for Special Issue on Laughter