The Emergence of The New Identity of ‘Emak-emak (Mothers)’ in Indonesian 2019 Presidential Election

Author: Nurina Azyyati (Department of Linguistics, University of Indonesia, Indonesia)
Speaker: Nurina Azyyati
Topic: Semiotics and Semiology
The SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2022 Poster Session


This research studied a pressure group (Darmawan, 2015) consisting of Indonesian mothers, who identify as emak-emak (mothers) in the Indonesian 2019 presidential election. The pressure group were named BEM (the Militant Indonesian Mothers) and PEPES (The Mothers Political Party Supporting Prabowo Sandi). These mothers sided with the running candidate number two, Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno, and disseminated verbal campaigns, intermixing these with global discourses of political agenda. Consequently, the emak-emak group impacted significantly on the election campaign in various ways. For example, PEPES managed to open 34 branches throughout Indonesia in one month. PEPES was able to create several hashtag trends within the general platform of social media. Here, the emak-emak became actively involved as agents in Indonesian political frameworks. However, this process of active involvement of mothers in Indonesian politics found influence in that the noun ‘emak-emak’ embodied variant semiotic affordances prior to the Indonesian 2019 presidential election.

This study finds that the process of shifting semiosis (Pierce, 1940; Noth, 1995; Hoed, 2014) began from the interpretation of ‘emak (singular)’ through the signs found on trending hashtags #KamiBanggaDipanggilEmak (#WeAreProudToBeCalledEmak), and continued to another semiosis process in the emergence of phrase ‘the power of emak-emak’. This semiosis was interpreted employing a signifying order model (Danesi & Perron 1999). The interpretations of semiotic processes emerged in three specific multimodal protests: The first protest demanded President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to take action so to reduce the cost of staple foods and other domestic products; the second protest called for the president to step down from office, given that he had prematurely declared himself a candidate for the 2019 race; the third protest requested KPU (Indonesian General Elections Commission) to reject political fraud. The interpretation of verbal and non-verbal signs used in the protests motivated the emergence of new identities of the ‘emak-emak.’

Keywords: identity, Indonesian mothers, Indonesian presidential election, pressure group, semiotics