The Missing Coke Bottle

Arahmaiani and the Neo-Colonial Shadow of Capitalist Globalization

  • Julian Brook Ruszel University of Victoria
Keywords: human rights; feminism; neo-colonialism; globalization; ideology


Indonesian artist activist Arahmaiani uses art to call attention to the role of capitalist globalization as an exploitative neo-colonial force in developing nations. Beginning in the 1990s, Arahmaiani employed a Coca-Cola bottle in many of her installations and performances as a symbol of the commodification and Americanization of lifestyles and identities occurring in Indigenous and non-western cultures. Arahmaiani’s work connects patriarchy, class exploitation, and environmental destruction to global political and economic structures in ways not typical of western liberal human rights discourses. In contrast, liberal constructions of human rights tend to focus ideologically on local, non-western institutions and practices as barriers to human rights. This gives rise to significant contradictions that complicate such conceptions of human rights and their proposed solutions, as will be demonstrated with a key work from feminist scholar Lucinda Peach. Arahmaiani’s work thus challenges western liberal human rights discourse; it urges academics and activists to redirect their myopic gaze away from the cultural idiosyncrasies of non-western nations towards the global capitalist structures that support inequality and oppression across the globe.


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