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Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia by Laurie J. Sears

Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia


Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia by Laurie J. Sears

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. This book will be welcomed by readers with interests in contemporary Indonesian politics and society as well as historians, anthropologists, and other scholars concerned with literature, gender, and cultural studies.Contributors. Benedict R. O'G. Anderson, Sita Aripurnami, Jane Monnig Atkinson, Nancy K. Florida, Daniel S. Lev, Dede Oetomo, Laurie J. Sears, Ann Laura Stoler, Saraswati Sunindyo, Julia I. Suryakusuma, Jean Gelman Taylor, Sylvia Tiwon, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Diane L. Wolf


[A] brave attempt to interrogate previous scholarship on Indonesian women and to argue for the particular importance and significance of this area in comparative feminist theory. . . . The collection is innovative in that it includes a number of Indonesian women as contributors and tries to change the image of a country that 'remains anchored in exotic spaces
in the popular imagination

. . . . [R]ich in detail, anecdote, argument, and jokes. . . . Buy it, read it with absorption, and see if it manages to unsettle some of your own views of masculinity and femininity in a uniquely Indonesian way. --American Anthropologist The core aim of this lively and assured collection ... is to seek out not the essentialist notion of 'Indonesian women
but the feminine within the fragile and artificial unity of the construct of Indonesia

. . . . The collection is a welcome intervention into scholarship on gender in Indonesia and should be on all reading lists. --Maila Stivens, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Disparate views of the situation of Indonesian women, both past and present, are presented by American and Indonesian scholars. A long introduction by the editor, Laurie J. Sears, discusses both the importance of cultural identity to Indonesian women and the impediments they encounter in publicly articulating their unique problems. -- Crossroads

Clear, insightful, and rich in data, this volume is based on fieldwork studies and contains much original thought and analysis. . . . Essential for all Indonesians and feminist collections; recommended for Asian collections. --Choice [A] landmark study on contemporary Indonesian women and keenly deserve[s] the attention of anyone who takes interest in Asian figurations of the feminine. --Kenneth M. George, Signs

[A]n important contribution to Indonesian studies and will appeal to those involved in postmodern and postcolonial debates. --Pacific Affairs

About the Author

Laurie J. Sears is Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington. She is author of Shadows of Empire: Colonial Discourse and Javanese Tales, also published by Duke University Press.

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Book Info

Publication date

7th February 1996


Laurie J. Sears

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Duke University Press


368 pages


Feminism & feminist theory



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