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Organizer and Discussant: G. G. Weix, University of Montana
Chair: Jennifer Bright, University of London
Discussants: Tinuk Yampolsky, Yale University; G. G. Weix, University of Montana
When the Indonesian state changed leadership in May 1998 many groups appeared influential in the transition of power: the students, military, Islamic organization Muhammadiyah and its leader, Amien Rais, and the other political parties. Yet, the faces, voices, and reports of womens organizations were conspicuously absent from the media and its analysis of the change of power. Indonesian womens organizations, past and present, their leadership, membership, policies and practices, and relationship to national politics is the subject of this panel. The papers examine participation in official government associations, known as PKK (Newberry), the modernist and reformist Islamic organization, Aisyiyah (Bright), and the non-governmental organization monitoring cases of political violence, discrimination and labor relations abuses, Kayanamitra (Nadia). Anthropological, historical, and political analysis intersect in all the papers, which focus on female agency, activism, leadership and influence on national policies. Discussants familiar with Indonesian culture and politics will comment on the implications for analysis of political events in Indonesia.
Specifically, how do these contemporary organizations affect the political subjectivity of their members? Can the current issues of leadership, family planning, and domestic occupations provide a transformative context for womens collective responses to political events and violence against women? What about Indonesian Chinese women, who were targeted for rape as a political weapon in the recent riots? Are new forms of political violence a sign that gender is becoming integral to understanding politics in Indonesia?
Making Housewives in a Javanese Kampung: State Formation as Everyday Practice
Janice Newberry, Haverford College
Reports of the death of Javanese culture are premature. The seemingly inevitable reach of Indonesian state administration to take over culture does not mean its end, as has been claimed, despite the "historical displacements" that have occurred. Similarly, the organization of Indonesian and Javanese women as housewives by the national housewives organization known as PKK has not meant the end of multiple careers as community managers, wage workers, wives, daughters, and mothers. As Adorno has suggested, administration is not simply imposed; it multiplies within the person and so the occupations of Javanese women have flourished as they work in and around state administration, "making do" with its resources to tighten their loads and keep their families afloat. My fieldwork in a working-class Javanese kampung in Yogyakarta suggests that the so-called non-political womens movement that is PKK in fact represents the possibility for positive social change through the practical politics of womens domestic work, not to mention the support of kampung community, ritual and culture. As a consequence, state administration is not resisted, but reformed, and despite appearances to the contrary, the aims of earlier popular nationalist womens organizations are met creatively within the state-sponsored, orchestrated duties of PKK. The recuperation of culture and ritual is effected not just by the Indonesian state, but by people like those I studied living in the shadow of the kraton.
Who is Co-opting Whom? Historical Perspectives on the "Ideal family" Policy in Indonesia
Jennifer Bright, School for Oriental and African Studies, University of London
The Aisyiyah organization established in 1917 as the womens wing of Muhammadijah, is one of the largest and most well established grassroots organizations for women in Indonesia. Throughout its history, the organization has promoted the tenets of reformist Islam and worked to improve the social and economic well being of its members and the communities in which they are active.
Since its inception, the Muhammadijah/Aisyiyah organization has avoided overt and obvious involvement in the national political arena. This approach, however, has not prevented either individual members or the organization from playing a part in influencing government policy. One example of an Aisyiyah policy that made the transition to the national level is Keluarga Sakinah, the concept of the ideal family.
A central theme in Aisyiyah discourse, the attributes of the ideal family were articulated in modernist Islamic terms in the 1970s and the policy known as Keluarga Sakinah was formally adopted by the organization in 1985. Later, the government of Indonesia launched its own version of Keluarga Sakinah, a slightly expanded version of the Aisyiyah original, and made it a key part of the Suharto governments controversial family planning program.
The paper I propose offers a historical overview of the Aisyiyah and the process by which Keluarga Sakinah became part of national political policy in Indonesia. The paper also raises questions about the nature of government, Islam in Indonesia and the scope of female Islamic leadership and influence within the overlapping spheres of social, religious, and political activism.