Popular YouTubers Son of Dad. Screenshot from YouTube.

Ghosts, spirits, kuntilanak, tuyul, and pocong. For most Indonesians these are familiar and, in some ways, even comforting companions from the supernatural realm. Ghost stories are passed down through generations, regardless of class, religion or belief system, and horror has long been a staple of Indonesian literature, art, film and television cultures. Throughout Indonesian history, leaders have often claimed a mystic mandate, alongside political power, to rule. Supernaturalism or “horror stuff” is something of a national trait.

In recent years, young urban Indonesian YouTubers have engaged an eager and growing audience, telling old stories in new, innovative and fascinating ways online. The continuing popularity of horror stories and their reimagining through the use of digital technologies highlights some of the ambiguities in Indonesia’s progressive and increasingly cosmopolitan nationalism.

What is it about the supernatural that so captivates Indonesians? Why is YouTube a fertile platform for this thriving genre of entertainment? What can these videos and their creators tell us about how Indonesians see themselves, their society and the world at large?

In the first episode of Talking Indonesia for 2022, Jemma Purdey talks to Tito Ambyo, a journalist and lecturer in journalism at RMIT in Melbourne, and a new host of Talking Indonesia this year. Tito is currently completing his PhD at RMIT’s Digital Ethnographic Research Centre on digital horror and storytelling in Indonesia.

In 2022, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Jemma Purdey from Monash University, Dr Dave McRae from the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, Dr Jacqui Baker from Murdoch University, and Tito Ambyo.

Look out for a new Talking Indonesia podcast every fortnight.  Catch up on previous episodes here, subscribe via Apple Podcasts or listen via your favourite podcasting app.


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