Laura Coppens ist seit August 2014 Assistentin mit Schwerpunkt Medienanthropologie  am Institut für Sozialanthropologie an der Universität Bern. Sie hat an der FU Berlin Sozialanthropologie, Soziologie und Lateinamerikanistik studiert. Neben ihrer akademischen Arbeit ist sie zudem als Dokumentarfilmerin und Kuratorin tätig. Von 2009-2012 war sie Doktorandin am Universitären Forschungsschwerpunkt „Asien und Europa“ der Universität Zürich und war dann mit einem Stipendium des Schweizerischen Nationalfonds sowie der Stiftung Stiefel-Zangger für ein Jahr als Visiting Scholar am Center for Culture, Media and History der New York University. 2014 promovierte sie mit ihrer Arbeit über Filmaktivismus im post-autorirären Indonesien. Aktuell ist sie Film Review Editor des Journals for Visual Anthropology (VAR), erarbeitet ein neues Forschungsprojekt und befindet sich in der Vorbereitung für neue Dokumentarfilme.




Queer Autoethnography, Film Festival Politics, and the Subversion of Heteronormativity

This dissertation explores the cultural phenomenon of film activism in the context of democratization and Islamization in post-Suharto Indonesia. Focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) cultural producers, namely the organizers of Asia’s largest queer film festival, the Q! Film Festival, and the directors of the collaborative film anthology Anak-Anak Srikandi, it aims to illuminate an aesthetic movement that has played an active part in the construction of the new Indonesian nation since the political reformation in 1998. The democratic opening in combination with the development of new media technologies made possible the emergence of marginalized voices that had been suppressed and dominated by the New Order regime. For the new liberal actors, cinema has played an important role in promoting novel understandings of sexuality and gender, raising awareness about controversial issues like homosexuality and individual sexual rights. However, the advancement of a liberal understanding of sexuality and sexual citizenship has met with strong opposition from both the government and Islamic groups, who produce and disseminate heterosexist and homophobic discourses based on invented “Islamic values.”

Within the broader moral and political debates of the national public sphere, this study advances our understanding of how these LGBT middle-class cultural producers carve out their place in a rapidly changing Indonesian society. The homophobic protests of the Defenders of Islam Front (FPI) against the Q! Film Festival in 2010 showed the limits of the visibility politics of sexual and gender minorities. Although the realization of a queer counterpublic seems far from possible at this moment in time, the cultural activism explored here makes transformative politics imaginable. By demonstrating how film activists in contemporary Indonesia generate new forms of queer knowledge and enable community and alliance building based on affinity, I challenge and ask for the extension of existing notions of the political in LGBT rights activism. I argue that film activism creates inclusive critical sites of resistance where oppressive heteronormative discourses can be subverted and reconfigured in liberatory ways.

Drawing on anthropological fieldwork at the Q! Film Festival, interviews with key participants, close ethnographic analysis of Anak-Anak Srikandi and of my own involvement in the film’s production, this work contributes to the study and practice of anthropological filmmaking, to the emerging field of film festival studies, and also to interdisciplinary studies of non-Western media. Furthermore, it counters anthropological othering discourses and repositions the Indonesian cultural producers presented here as co-producers of knowledge. The findings offer insights into the workings of film activism and prompt consideration of the importance of listening and valuing voice.

Laura Coppens, Martha-Cecilia Dietrich und Michaela Schäuble: «Audiovisuelle Forschungsmethoden», in: Methoden ethnologischer Feldforschung, hrsg. Von Bettina Beer und Anika König. Dritte, überarbeitete und erweiterte Ausgabe. Reimer Verlag 2020, S. 241-259.


Ethnographic Documentary Practice (Praxiskurs)


Together! Das Kino der Gemeinschaft


Erzählweisen im Dokumentarfilm

Digital Labor: Rethinking Work in the Digital Age


Indigenous Futurism: Imaginationen von Zukunft in indigenen Science-Fiction Filmen


Anthropologie der Hoffnung