|Jockeying Motorbikes: International Labor Migration, Adolescents, and Surrogate Agents of Conspicuous Consumption in Rural East Java
Rural Javanese adolescents play significant roles in the conspicuous display of their parents’ wealth by acting as surrogate agents. This phenomenon is most visible through brand-new motorbikes that are mobile symbols of success in the East Javanese villages from where many people go overseas to work as migrant workers.
Many parents in the villages of international migration let their adolescent children drive the brand-new motorbikes to school. Even both school and the police authorities turn blind eyes to the underage drivers for the sake of promoting popular education. In reality, however, behind the “educational” motives in the adolescent use of motorbikes, not-so- hidden effects of conspicuous consumption exist. Adolescent children’s roles are most visible when their migrant parents are overseas. The constant use of motorbikes is a reminder of their parents’ hard work and sukses in their home-town village.
This study elaborates a different variation of Veblenian vicarious consumption in the developing society where children enjoy peculiar positions in the family as well as the local communities. When parents work overseas, adolescents are put in the position of a new leisure cluster as they no longer need to work in the rice field due to abundant remittances from their parents.
This study intends to provide a new insight into studies of international labour migration in which the roles of adolescents in consumption have not been sufficiently examined.