Jacob M. Hall

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Mark E. Karan


People have been interacting with print in the South Sumatran city of Palembang for well over a millennium. Most of this literate activity has been carried out in languages other than the vernacular. Even now, the vast majority of print in the public realm in Palembang is in Indonesian, English, Arabic, and Chinese. And yet there are examples of the local language, Baso Pelembang, in print. This thesis looks for reasons behind these variations from the norm.

After exploring the perspective offered by the New Literacy Studies (NLS), this paper builds upon the foundation provided by these works. Through use of this new framework, in which an understanding of literacies is clearly connected to (and distinguished from) other cultural skills, this thesis is equipped to examine the who, what, when, where, and how of literate skills, practices, interactions, and events. This analysis allows a fuller understanding of the questions of why particular cultural actors interact with print in specific ways in specific situations. Armed with this framework, the paper proceeds to examine Palembangese texts from a variety of sources (e.g., newspapers, text messages, the internet, etc.).

This research demonstrates that people in Palembang choose to use the language of their hearts and homes in print for a variety of reasons, reasons that can best be understood through careful examination of the specific cultural environment in which texts are produced. Some of the reasons established in this study were 1) the desire to build or sustain solidarity and trust, 2) the desire to draw in readership through the shocking rarity of seeing the vernacular in print, and 3) the desire to authentically report the utterances of local people.