Indonesia Inquiry

Feminism in Indonesia (Annotated Bibliography)

March 31, 2015 Annotated Bibliographies Data Research Resources 0

Feminism in Indonesia (Annotated Bibliography)

Compiled by: Camila Costadoni

Directed Individual Study, Spring 2015

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

The following bibliography is comprised of sources based on the overarching theme of “gender discrimination” in Southeast Asia with a particular focus on Indonesia. The themes that are mostly touched upon are based on two different foci: “feminism and feminist theory” and “women, religion, and political behavior.” Due to the overlapping nature of these topics many of the listed sources discuss a variety or combination of these topics. These sources were collected from JSTOR, PAIS International, and EBSCO based on the availability of access to these sources. They have been categorized according to the nature of source and further into the areas they address. Color-coded guides are provided below:

DIS keyforabib

*feminist theory appears as this color

Journal Articles           

Why militant Islamic movements which curtail women’s rights have attracted female participation in North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia; emergence of a new Islamic feminism which seeks to reconcile Islam with moves to lessen gender inequality.

  • Blackburn, Susan. 1994. “Gender Interests and Indonesian Democracy.” Australian Journal of Political Science 29: 556-574.

Using a distinction between practical and strategic gender interests, this paper examines the implications which democracy has for women in Indonesia. A comparison between the 1950s, when Indonesia experienced a period of liberal democracy, and the current New Order era, reveals that the different records of the two regimes in fulfilling women’s gender interests can be explained both by the relative success of governments in promoting development and by the level of civil and political liberties tolerated by them. In the present political transition in Indonesia, the prospect of greater freedoms of expression and association offers hope to women seeking to pursue strategic gender interests and the practical gender interests of poorer women.

  • Chib, Arul and Vivian Hsueh-Hua Chen. 2011. “Midwives With Mobiles: A Dilectical Perspective on Gender Arising From Technology Introduction in Rural Indonesia.” New Media & Society 13 (May): 486-501.

Mobile phones were introduced to rural midwives in tsunami-affected Indonesia, allowing them to contact medical experts and communicate with patients. Ninety-two interviews were conducted with midwives, coordinators, doctors, and village representatives. This study applies a dialectical perspective to supplement the analytical frame of the ICT for healthcare development model (Chib et al., 2008), by addressing the multi-dimensionality of benefits and barriers. The theory of dialectical tension (Baxter and Montgomery, 1996) situates the conceptual discussion around the struggles between autonomy and subordination within gender roles, personal growth versus technological competency, and issues of economic and resource control in traditional hierarchies. We find that midwives engage in legitimization strategies, develop peer support, and focus on strategic issues to develop the capacity for agency and autonomy, despite socio-organizational barriers. Specific recommendations are offered, focusing on the resourcefulness and desire of women.

  • Croll, Elisabeth J. 2006. “From the Girl Child to Girls’ Rights.” Third World Quarterly 27: 1285-1297. (February 26, 2015).

Within the development context, much of the new interest in girls has occurred under the rubric ‘the girl child,’ which has become an increasingly common phrase on international and national platforms. This paper, based largely on field and documentary research across East, South and Southeast Asia, suggests that this platform has not translated into effective, sustained or transformative national programmes or local projects in support of girls. It also argues that the cause of girls might be served better by an emphasis on girls’ rights embedded in frameworks that both gender entitlements and expectations of children and take campaigns directly into the familial environment.

  • Devasahayam, Theresa W., Shirlena Huang, and Brenda S.A. Yeoh. 2004. “Southeast Asian Migrant Women: Navigating Borders, Negotiating Scales.” Singapore Journal Of Tropical Geography 25: 135-140. 

Focuses on the feminization of intraregional labor migratory flows within Southeast and East Asia. Types of activities that women are engaged in; Use of feminist studies in looking at scales that caused the downside of globalization and transnational research; Household level analysis of the role of women; Implication of the migration of women in transnational domestic work on the uneven impacts of globalization.

  • Dewi, Kurniawati Hastuti. 2008. “Perspective versus Practice: Women’s Leadership in Muhammadiyah.” SOJOURN: Journal Of Social Issues In Southeast Asia 23, no. 2: 161-185. 

This study examines Muhammadiyahs views on women’s leadership that play a significant role in determining whether the demand for women’s leadership in the movement, based on the case of the 45th Muhammadiyah Muktamar in July 2005, will be met. This paper presents the discrepancy between these perspectives and contemporary practices, and assesses the endorsements of the textual approach for understanding divine messages on women, the male hegemonic sentiment, and the rejection of the affirmative action rule for accommodating women in the Muhammadiyah central board. Findings suggest that the views of Muhammadiyah followers have shifted towards favouring women’s leadership, and are presently a crucial factor in improving the status of women.

  • Elmhirst, Rebecca. 1998. “Reconciling Feminist Theory and Gendered Resource Management in Indonesia.” Area 30 (September): 225-235. (February 26, 2015).

This paper considers the difficulties in reconciling a fluid and ambiguous conceptualization of gender difference with policy-based efforts to define women as ‘target groups’ in development interventions. The issue is explored with reference to gender issues in a transmigration resettlement area in Indonesia, where the instability of gender identities is particularly marked, and where gendered resource use and control are particularly blurred.

  • Gardener, Daisy. 2012. “Workers’ rights and corporate accountability – the move towards practical, worker-driven change for sportswear workers in Indonesia.” Gender & Development 20, no. 1: 49-65. 

Women workers across Asia and throughout the world continue to face long hours, low wages and discrimination when they try to organise into unions within garment and footwear factories. Millions of young women are making products for companies Nike and Adidas. Over the past decade, under considerable public pressure, these companies have developed standards on workers conditions for their supplier factories. Despite this, there is still a considerable gap between sportswear companies’ policies and the actual conditions inside factories. This article explores a process in Indonesia from 2009 to 2011 which brought together Indonesian factories, international sportswear brands and Indonesian unions to develop a protocol in an attempt ensure that workers’ human rights are upheld inside factories. Women union leaders were instrumental in the development of this protocol and will be integral to the implementation of these new guidelines.

  • Hughes-Freeland, Felicia. 2008. “Gender, Representation, Experience: The Case of Village Performers in Java.” Dance Research: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research 26 (Winter): 140-167. (February 26, 2015).

This article explains how gender representations are deployed in anthropological analysis with reference to female performers (ledhek) in rural Java during the last decades of Suharto’s New Order Indonesia (1966-1998). It shows how the negative ascriptions given to ledheks were consistent with state promulgated gender ideologies in Indonesia, and explores the women’s experiences in performances and everyday life. This different standpoint allows us to understand their dancing from the performer’s points of view, rather than from that of official state endorsed ideas of acceptable performance culture.

  • Jauhola, Marjaana. 2010. “Building Back better? – Negotiating Normative Boundaries of Gender Mainstreaming and Post-tsunami Reconstruction in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, Indonesia.” Review of International Studies, 36: 29-50.

This article focuses on gender mainstreaming policies and advocacy on gender equality in the post-tsunami context in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam. Through the analysis, this article illustrates how gender mainstreaming policy documents and gender advocacy of the provincial and central government, when drawing from sex/gender division and binary of genders, reproduce heteronormative boundaries. By focusing on details, I argue that the image of the heteronormative nuclear family participates in normalising other identity categories; such as urban and middle-class. I also provide examples of how simultaneous to the production of dominant norms, gender advocacy challenges heteronormativity and norms governing heterosexuality and actively question the dominant gender norms. Drawing from postcolonial feminist and recent queer critiques, I argue that advocacy that solely focuses on gender and/or sexuality reduces human bodies and their desires to simplistic stick figures. Thus, it remains blind to other forms of violence, such as global economic and political frameworks that define ‘building back better’ primarily as recovery and rehabilitation of economy, assets and labour force.

This paper begins by discussing why gender equality is a necessary condition for economic transformation in the current phase of development. It argues that economic transformation in developing countries will be determined to a greater extent by gender equality than was the case in an earlier phase of transformation in the nineteenth century in non-industrialized countries. This is because gender equality is central to hastening the demographic transition. It goes on to show that the human development status of women in most East and Southeast Asian countries has also hastened that demographic transition. But then it also examines the surviving forms of gender discrimination all over Asia and finds that in South Asia gender discrimination is most severe. These surviving forms of gender discrimination have shown themselves in an adverse sex ratio as well as political non-representation throughout most of the region – most severely in South Asia.

  • Mellström, Ulf. 2009. “The Intersection of Gender, Race and Cultural Boundaries, or Why is Computer Science in Malaysia Dominated by Women?” Social Studies of Science 39 (December): 885-907.

This paper reports an investigation on how and why computer science in Malaysia is dominated by women. Inspired by recent critical interventions in gender and technology studies, the paper aims to open up more culturally situated analyses of the gendering of technology or the technology of gendering, with the Malaysian case exemplifying the core of the argument. The paper argues along four different strands of critical thought: (1) a critique of the analytical asymmetry in the process of co-production in gender and technology studies; (2) a critique of a western bias in gender and technology studies, advocating more context sensitivity and focus on the cultural embeddedness of gender and technology relations; (3) a critique that pays more attention to spatial practices and body politics in regard to race, class and gender in relation to technology; and (4) a critique of ‘western’ positional notions of gender configurations that opens up for more fluid constructions of gender identity, including the many crossovers between relational and positional definitions of femininity and masculinity.

  • Munir, Lily Zakiyah. 2002. “‘He Is Your Garment and You Are His …’: Religious Precepts, Interpretations, and Power Relations in Marital Sexuality among Javanese Muslim Women.” SOJOURN: Journal Of Social Issues In Southeast Asia 17: 191-220. 

Three case studies of Javanese Muslim women excavate their marital lives to unpack some of the complexities of Javanese and Islamic traditions that condition their sexual relationship with their husbands. Both these traditions in their practice underline a patriarchal society that subjugates women in sexual and marital relations. The case for women’s subordinate position in Javanese Muslim society shares some common philosophical grounds with the perspective of Western radical feminists in the 1970s. However, this is not a discourse pitting Western liberalism against a restrictive Islamic orthodoxy. Instead, the discussion draws on Islamic precepts that preach equity in gender relations and examines how they can coexist with certain Islamic practices that are unfair to women. The women in these studies vary in their abilities to draw on their religious grounding to negotiate a way out of unsatisfactory matrimonial situations. Their experiences provide an opportunity to discuss how religious texts should be understood when what they prescribe is subject to conflicting interpretations.

  • Peletz, Michael G. 2012. “Gender, Sexuality, and the State in Southeast Asia.” The Journal of Asian Studies 71 (November): 895-917.

This article examines the relationship between gender and Uyghur identity through the story of Nuzugum, the allegory of a Kashgar woman who kills an enemy outsider she is forced to marry rather than yield her chastity and bear his children. Tracing the story from its nineteenth-century roots to literary, artistic, and political incarnations in recent decades, the article argues that the story’s prominence in the canon of Uyghur literature and its eponymous protagonist’s place among Uyghur national heroes highlights the integral but overlooked role of gender in the construction of modern Uyghur identity. The resiliency of the story’s gendered themes also underscores gender’s importance in contemporary Uyghur political advocacy, especially advocacy about the transfer of Uyghur women to factories in China’s coastal cities, an issue connected to the July 2009 protests and riots in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

  • Raksasataya, Amara. 1968. “The Political Role of Southeast Asian Women.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 375: 86-90.

Women’s political roles in six Southeast Asian countries are surveyed. It is found that women have equal legal privileges in running for offices or voting, but that their actual role in these activities is minor, except in the Philip pines. However, quantitative indicators such as the number of women voters may underestimate the political role of South east Asian women. Using Thailand as a case study, it is shown that women can influence the political processes impor tantly in ways outside the legislative process. For example, Thai women are a highly important force in Thai education and in professional associations. They also have a significant role in higher levels of the Thai bureaucracy. Nevertheless, the political role of women in Southeast Asia is limited, not legally, but by other factors such as substantial domestic duties limiting the time available to participate actively in politics. Significant changes in the political role of women in Southeast Asia are not foreseen. Their direct influence in the legislative process will continue to be secondary, but they will increase their influence in other phases of political processes, perhaps behind the scenes.

This article contends that cultural, political and historical factors create a local political environment where de facto discrimination against women is the norm. Without thoroughly addressing and altering the underlying issues causing discrimination against women in politics, a weak quota system will not immediately lead to increased women’s participation in Bali. This paper argues that the leading factors contributing to low levels of Balinese women’s participation include widespread money politics, the revitalisation of customary institutions and local identities through decentralisation, and the collective memory of the violent dissolution of the Indonesian Women’s Movement (Gerwani) in 1965-66.

  • Sarausad, Mary Rose Geraldine A. 2006. “Struggles from Within: Migrant women in Southeast Asia.” Development 49: 134-136.

Mary Rose Geraldine aims to draw out the parallel experiences of migrant women Filipina and Burmese domestic workers, in Bangkok, Thailand. She looks at the contradictory effects of migration in these women’s lives by analysing women’s gains alongside their vulnerabilities; highlighting their struggles in the context of displacement and precariousness. She asks how do these women resist certain forms of impositions and inequalities and how did their individual struggles contribute to the formation of social spaces, as new sites of ‘being’?

When Muslim women from diverse national and cultural contexts meet one another through transnational dialogue and networking, what happens to their sense of identity and social agency? Addressing this question, the author encountered women activists and intellectuals in North America, the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia — women whose lives and visions have become linked by ‘the transnational’ despite their differing circumstances and intellectual backgrounds. The resultant work provides a rich and cliche-bursting account of women’s reflections on a wide range of topics including: the status of women in Islam, the role of women as interpreters of religious norms, the relationship between secular and religious forms of self-identification, perceptions of Islamic-Western relations, experiences of marginalization, and opportunities for empowerment. Giving careful attention both to common threads in Muslim women’s experiences and to the unique voices of remarkable women, this is a compelling account of conversations that are bringing new energy and dynamism into women’s activism in a world of collapsing distances.

  • Shipper, Apichai W. 2010. “Introduction: Politics of Citizenship and Transnational Gendered Migration in East and Southeast Asia.” Pacific Affairs 83 (March): 11-29.

The concept of citizenship is fluid and constructed. State actors, societal actors, and courts play important roles in the construction and reconstruction of formal, substantive, and differentiated citizenship. The recent arrival of transnational gendered migration from neighbouring countries to East and Southeast Asia challenges pre-existing assumptions about how political communities are defined and how new members should be treated. This introductory chapter proposes an analytical framework to understand the politics of citizenship and transnational gendered migration within the context of East and Southeast Asia.

  • Simorangkir, Deborah. 2011. “The Impact of the Feminization of the Public Relations Industry in Indonesia on Communication Practice.” International Journal of Strategic Communication 5: 26-48.

Public relations is often regarded as a female field. It is a developing field where it seems that gender equity has become a reality. But has it really? This study aimed to analyze the impacts of the feminization of public relations, and whether this is benefiting women practitioners and the overall industry in Indonesia. This study sought to answer: (1) Does the public relations practitioner’s gender influence his/her dominant role? And, (2) What are the impacts of the feminization of public relations in Indonesia? In answering these questions, in-depth interviews with 53 public relations practitioners and educators in Jakarta were conducted. Results show that indeed gender influences the Indonesian public relations practitioner’s dominant role. Also, the impacts of the feminization of the public relations industry in Indonesia are: Degradation of the public relations profession; Appearance as a job prerequisite; Male practitioners regarded as gay; Encroachment; Low budget allocation; Low remuneration; and Sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Stivens, Maila. 1994. “Gender at the Margins: Paradigms and Peasantries in Rural Malaysia.” Women’s Studies International Forum 17: 373-390.

This article looks at the difficulties facing feminist scholars in conceptualising the fate of women caught up in agrarian transformations and passages to modernity throughout the world. It is argued that while the dominant discourses dealing with peasantries have been able to marginalise or exclude gender, the attempts to displace those discourses have proved more problematic than feminists might have hoped: a deconstruction of the received categories leaves scholars facing the awkward and difficult task of reconstructing and reclaiming gender from the edifice of concepts that implicitly include it but exclude any real consideration of its workings. Against a background of ethnographic research in Rembau, Negeri, Sembilan, Malaysia, the article explores the implications of these issues for ‘peasant studies’, with special attention to the debates about the application of western mainstream/malestream and feminist theories to the ‘periphery’. Arguing that merely adding women to the classical debates about the processes subsuming peripheral agrarian forms, demonstrating ‘effects on women’, will not necessarily advance our understanding of the operations of gender in history, it suggests that we need to show how gender relations have been part of such agrarian transformations and to detail the linkages between local level and larger political and economic forces. But to do that we need to rethink many of the categories used in such analyses to overcome the obfuscation produced by gender absence.

  • Tran, Nhung Tuyet. 2008. “Gender, Property, and the ‘Autonomy Thesis’ in Southeast Asia: The Endowment of Local Succession in Early Modern Vietnam.” The Journal of Asian Studies 67 (February): 43-72.

The claim that Vietnamese inheritance patterns were bilateral and indicative of wider patterns of Southeast Asian women’s autonomy or Vietnamese protonational uniqueness reflect major themes in the historiography on Vieệtnam. Past scholarship suggests that lawmakers of the Lê (1427–1783) and Mạc (1527–60) dynasties codified bilateral succession practices, attesting to the relative autonomy that Vietnamese women shared with their Southeast Asian counterparts. This essay challenges the claims of bilateralism and argues that Lê dynasty law, local custom, and legal practice preserved the principles of patrilineal succession. Though the language and adjudication of the law limited daughters’ succession rights, ironically, these restrictions on their private rights enabled women to carve out spaces of authority in village economic and religious life. To avoid the transfer of their property to male relatives, some women instead transferred property to local institutions in order to lay claim over their personal property and to ensure the maintenance of their ancestral rites in perpetuity. In effect, rather than a system that elevated women’s status, the property regime served as a site of contestation in which women could claim large economic and religious roles in local settings.

Economic analysis and legal environment, with some emphasis on negative issues and policy gaps, particularly in law enforcement and poverty alleviation. Negative issues include gender discrimination, sexual harassment, prostitution, and unsafe working environment.

  • Van Doorn-Harder, Pieternella. 2008. “Controlling the Body: Muslim Feminists Debating Women’s Rights in Indonesia.” Religion Compass 2: 1021-1043.

This essay discusses several scholarly and activist projects undertaken by Muslim feminists in Indonesia who aim at strengthening the basic human rights of women based on Islamic teachings. Highlighted in this article are the activities that focus on a woman’s agency of choice; especially in matters pertaining to her body. According to these feminists, male interpretations of the Qur’an and its related texts of Hadith and Jurisprudence (Fiqh) combined with local and cultural influences led to misogynist teachings. By re-interpreting these religious sources according to contemporary needs and contexts, they strive to retrieve the underlying Qur’anic message of justice with the goal of influencing patterns of expectations concerning a woman’s role and position as constructed by her religious, social, and economic environment.

  • Visweswaran, Kamala. 2004. “Gendered States: Rethinking Culture as a Site of South Asian Human Rights Work.” Human Rights Quarterly 26 (May): 483-511. (February 26, 2015).

This article explores recent critiques in feminist theory to examine how gender-based asylum cases and human rights reporting on South Asia rely upon the most static and patriarchal understandings of culture to establish a basis for intervention or advocacy. It argues that while cultural practices indeed reflect upon women’s status, for gender-based asylum cases the emphasis may be more effectively placed upon a particular political system’s denial of women’s rights, or upon the interface between culture and the political system, rather than upon “culture” itself.

  • Qibtiyah, Alimatul. 2010. “Self-identified Feminists Among Gender Activists and Scholars at Indonesian Universities.” ASEAS – Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 3: 151-174.

Being a self-identified feminist is controversial among women’s rights activists and scholars. This relates to different interpretations of and positive and negative associations with the term ‘feminist’ in society. The research presented here discusses the different ‘feminist’ identities and other labels among activists and scholars at Indonesian universities and explores what ‘feminist’ means for them. Respondents come from Pusat Studi Wanita (Centres for Women’s Studies) or Pusat Studi Gender (Centres for Gender Studies) at six universities in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Many respondents acknowledge that Western feminists are able to raise awareness of gender issues, strengthen feminist identity, and build up faith in Islam. The paper, however, also addresses the question of why some reject the ‘feminist’ label.


  • Berninghausen, J.; Kerstan, B. 1992. Forging New Paths: Feminist Social Methodology and Rural Women in Java, UK: Zed Books.

The study attempted to research which activities can effect a positive change in the economic and social status of women in Java, Indonesia, and the significance of women’s self-help organizations and autonomous women’s collectives in this context. In order to find out how Javanese women live, and to ascertain the determinants of their sphere of activities, a sociologically/anthropologically structured case study was conducted in a settlement near the small town of Klaten. The village can be considered typical for the densely populated central Javanese lowlands in terms of its socioeconomic structure. The village has both an active women’s group and a girl’s group sponsored by the non-governmental Institute for Economic and Social Studies, Education and Information (LP3ES). The Institute has organized a women’s programme which aims to found a cooperative which would administer the capital pool of the members’ savings and credit groups, support the productive enterprises of the member groups and implement comprehensive educational programmes. The extent to which these self-help projects operate to increase women’s bargaining power and extend their activities in general is assessed. The three criteria of control over resources, personal autonomy and social participation are used in analysing how the socioeconomic, political and cultural organization of Javanese society is manifested in everyday lives. The book documents social change, women’s ability to cope with it and the consequent broadening of their aspirations and roles. Findings are analysed in the context of feminist theory. Advances need to be made towards a more explicitly feminist methodology which displays a sensitive understanding of, and solidarity with, women experiencing patriarchy.

  • Brenner, Suzanne April. 1998. The Domestication of Desire: Women, Wealth, and Modernity in Java. Princeton Univ. Press.

Brenner’s analysis centers on the importance of gender to processes of social transformation. In Laweyan, the base of economic and social power has shifted from families, in which women were the main producers of wealth and cultural value, to the Indonesian state, which has worked to reorient families toward national political agendas. How such attempts affect women’s lives and the meaning of the family itself are key considerations as Brenner questions long-held assumptions about the division between “domestic” and “public” spheres in modern society.

  • Grijns, Mies, Ines Smyth, Anita Van Velzen, and Sugiah Mac Hfud. 1994. Different Women, Different Work: Gender and Industrialization in Indonesia.

West Java, a densely populated part of Indonesia, is the setting of this book, which focuses on trends in women’s work in the rural non-farm sector. It breaks new ground stressing the selectivity of the processes of industrialization and marginalization, and the substantial impact they have on women. Elements of diversity analyzed are class, age and marital status, organized according to women’s work status as entrepreneurs, wage workers and unpaid family workers. Relying on material from case studies on 13 industrial sub-sectors in more than 80 villages, the book contains empirical information not normally available on wages, conditions of work and labour relations.

  • Monnig, Jane and Shelly Errington, eds. 1990. Power and Difference: Gender in Island Southeast Asia. Stanford University Press.

Although the societies of island Southeast Asia(Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, plus Brunei and Singapore) are known for their egalitarian relations between men and women, subtle differences in power and status do exist. These differences are often difficult to conceptualize, and, consequently, the theoretical issues posed by such relatively egalitarian gender systems have been largely unexamined in Western scholarship, even thought these issues are of great importance to feminists and others interested in culture and power. This book is about difference and power as they relate to men and women in island Southeast Asia. It examines how differences between ‘male’ and ‘female’ (as gendered concepts of the person) and between men and women (as living beings engaged in activities) are constituted there in assumptions and through practices, and how power is envisioned and distributed among men and women. The book begins with a substantial theoretical essay on gender, power, and the body, which is followed by eleven studies of aspects of gender in various parts of island Southeast Asia. Through the intertwined perspectives of anthropological and feminist studies, the volume recasts old analytic puzzles in innovative ways, advances recognition of new puzzles, and contributes to a multidisciplinary understanding of the sociocultural dimensions of gender and related systems of ‘person classification’.

  • Ong, Aihwa and Michael G. Peletz, eds. 1995. Bewitching Women, Pious Men: Gender and Body Politics in Southeast Asia. University of California Press.

This impressive array of essays considers the contingent and shifting meanings of gender and the body in contemporary Southeast Asia. By analyzing femininity and masculinity as fluid processes rather than social or biological givens, the authors provide new ways of understanding how gender intersects with local, national, and transnational forms of knowledge and power. Contributors cut across disciplinary boundaries and draw on fresh fieldwork and textual analysis, including newspaper accounts, radio reports, and feminist writing. Their subjects range widely: the writings of feminist Filipinas; Thai stories of widow ghosts; eye-witness accounts of a beheading; narratives of bewitching genitals, recalcitrant husbands, and market women as femmes fatales. Geographically, the essays cover Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. The essays bring to this region the theoretical insights of gender theory, political economy, and cultural studies. Gender and other forms of inequality and difference emerge as changing systems of symbols and meanings. Bodies are explored as sites of political, economic, and cultural transformation. The issues raised in these pages make important connections between behavior, bodies, domination, and resistance in this dynamic and vibrant region.

  • Robinson, Kathryn and Sharon Bessell, eds. 2002. Women in Indonesia: Gender, Equity and Development. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Indonesia now has its first woman President — Megawati Sukarnoputri. The debates surrounding her elevation to the presidency brought issues of gender and politics to the forefront of the public agenda, raising crucial questions about the role that women are to play in public life in post-Soeharo Indonesia. The struggle to achieve a democratic transition following the fall of Soeharto’s New Order in 1998 has also focused attention on issues of equity and gender justice. This book explores gender relations in Indonesia and presents an overview of the political, social, cultural and economic situation of women. The volume is Indonesia Assessment 2001, a result of the annual Indonesia Update conference organized by the Indoneisa Project and the Department of Political and Social Change at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, ANU.

When Muslim women from diverse national and cultural contexts meet one another through transnational dialogue and networking, what happens to their sense of identity and social agency? Addressing this question, the author encountered women activists and intellectuals in North America, the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia — women whose lives and visions have become linked by ‘the transnational’ despite their differing circumstances and intellectual backgrounds. The resultant work provides a rich and cliche-bursting account of women’s reflections on a wide range of topics including: the status of women in Islam, the role of women as interpreters of religious norms, the relationship between secular and religious forms of self-identification, perceptions of Islamic-Western relations, experiences of marginalization, and opportunities for empowerment. Giving careful attention both to common threads in Muslim women’s experiences and to the unique voices of remarkable women, this is a compelling account of conversations that are bringing new energy and dynamism into women’s activism in a world of collapsing distances.

  • Spears, Laurie J. 2007. “Postcolonial Identities, Feminist Criticism, and Southeast Asian Studies.” In Knowing Southeast Asian Subjects. University of Washington Press.

The essays in Knowing Southeast Asian Subjects ask how the rising preponderance of scholarship from Southeast Asia is de-centering Southeast Asian area studies in the United States. The contributions address recent transformations within the field and new directions for research, pedagogy, and institutional cooperation. Contributions from the perspectives of history, anthropology, cultural studies, political theory, and libraries pose questions ranging from how a concern with postcolonial and feminist questions of identity might reorient the field to how anthropological work on civil society and Islam in Southeast Asia provides an opportunity for comparative political theorists to develop more sophisticated analytic approaches. A vision common to all the contributors is the potential of area studies to produce knowledge outside a global academic framework that presumes the privilege and even hegemony of Euro-American academic trends and scholars.

  • Spears, Laurie J, ed. 1996. Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia. Duke University Press.

The stories of Indonesian women have often been told by Indonesian men and Dutch men and women. This volume asks how these representations—reproduced, transformed, and circulated in history, ethnography, and literature—have circumscribed feminine behavior in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia. Presenting dialogues between prominent scholars of and from Indonesia and Indonesian women working in professional, activist, religious, and literary domains, the book dissolves essentialist notions of “women” and “Indonesia” that have arisen out of the tensions of empire. The contributors examine the ways in which Indonesian women and men are enmeshed in networks of power and then pursue the stories of those who, sometimes at great political risk, challenge these powers. In this juxtaposition of voices and stories, we see how indigenous patriarchal fantasies of feminine behavior merged with Dutch colonial notions of proper wives and mothers to produce the Indonesian government’s present approach to controlling the images and actions of women. Facing the theoretical challenge of building a truly cross-cultural feminist analysis, Fantasizing the Feminine takes us into an ongoing conversation that reveals the contradictions of postcolonial positionings and the fragility of postmodern identities.

  • Sullivan, Norma. 1995.Masters and Managers: The Study of Gender Relations in Urban Java.Paul and Co. Pub. Consortium.

Masters and Managers” clarifies certain misconceptions about women’s status and position in Javanese society. Important among these are the myths that Javanese women’s control of the household purse-strings gives them an exceptionally high status, strengthened by their central role in the matrifocal pattern of the Javanese bilateral kinship system. Such myths, which have roots in older Javanese gender views and stereotypes, are accepted within the community and are recreated and transmitted through contemporary media, not least among them the gender discourse of the “modern housewife”. This discourse is embodied in one of the Soeharto state’s national development programmes which targets women as its implementers.

  • Wolf, Diane Lauren. 1992. Factory Daughters: Gender, Household Dynamics, and Rural Industrialization in Java. University of California Press.

Taking the reader inside the households where Javanese women live and the factories where they labour, Diane Wolf reveals the contradictions, constraints and changes in women’s lives in the Third World. She debunks conventional wisdom about the patriarchal family, while at the same time clearly identifying the complex dynamics of class, gender, agrarian change and industrialization in rural Java. “Factory Daughters” is distinguished by wide-ranging fieldwork in Java and a combination of narratives, rigorous surveys and quantitative analysis. In bringing us the words of many Javanese women, Wolf is able to vividly portray the ways they negotiate employment, income and marriage decisions through the webs of family obligations. The result is an original, effective contribution that deepens our understanding of industrialization and family life in the Third World.

Book Review

  • Arora, Mandakini. 2006. “A State of Ambivalence: The Feminist Movement in Singapore.” SOJOURN: Journal Of Social Issues In Southeast Asia 21: 275-279.

The article reviews the book “A State of Ambivalence: The Feminist Movement in Singapore,” by Lenore Lyons.


  • Muttaqin, Farid. 2008. “Progressive Muslim Feminists in Indonesia from Pioneering to the Next Agendas.” Southeast Asian Studies Presented to the faculty of the Center for International Studies of Ohio University.

In this paper, I explore some progressive Islamic feminist organizations and their contributions to popularizing Islamic reform movements in Indonesia through their popular pioneering agendas. Some pioneers of progressive Muslim feminists, such as P3M, FK3, PUAN Amal Hayati and Rahima have killed two birds with one stone. They made an important impact on reducing stigma against Islamic reform ideas and feminism. Many Indonesian Muslims often consider Islamic reform movements and feminism a Western conspiracy to destroy Islam. Progressive Muslim feminist groups’ approaches to local Muslim scholars of pesantren (traditional Islamic boarding school) are vital in shifting these local leaders to be focal points of Islamic reform. With more popular issues of Islamic reform, such as reproductive rights and domestic violence, they create an efficient step to introduce Islamic reform movements to Muslims at the grassroot level.

Events/Websites to Visit