University of Tasmania
whole_CurnowHeatherM2007_thesis.pdf (14.31 MB)

Women on the margins : an alternative to Kodrat?

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posted on 2023-05-26, 19:30 authored by Curnow, HM
During New Order Indonesia (1966 ‚ÄövÑvÆ 1998) women's roles were officially defined by the Panca Darma Wanita (The Five Duties of Women). Based on traditional notions of womanhood, these duties were used by the Indonesian State to restrict women's activities to the private sphere, that is, the family and domesticity. Linked with the Five Duties was kodrat wanita (women's destiny), an unofficial code of conduct, loosely based on biological determinism. Kodrat wanita became a benchmark by which women were measured during this period, and to a large extent this code is still valid today. In this thesis, I have analyzed female characters in Indonesian literature with specific identities that are on the periphery of this dominant discourse. The thesis comprises an introduction, six chapters, a conclusion and a bibliography. I preface each chapter with a brief historical and theoretical context. The first chapter (1) analyzes a mythological figure, the sorceress Calon Arang and her metamorphosis in literature over the last 50 years. Further chapters are devoted to (2) Selir (minor wives of Javanese aristocracy) and Nyai (indigenous concubines during the Dutch colonial period); (3) Ritual dancers (ronggeng or tayub); (4) Prostitutes; and (5) Lesbians. The implications of silence, madness and death for female characters are discussed in the final chapter of the thesis (6). In each chapter, I undertake a feminist reading of specific literary texts that feature the women I have categorized; discussing the markers of their marginality such as origins, rites of passage, dress and occupation of physical and social space, their agency and/or resistance to dominant patriarchal agendas, and the outcomes of their positions on the margins of society. In terms of chronological parameters, I have looked at images of indigenous women in selected works of Dutch colonial literature (1892 ‚ÄövÑvÆ 1954), and in Indonesian literature from 1896 ‚ÄövÑvÆ 1998. Finally, I have drawn on recent works by post-New Order young writers (1998 ‚ÄövÑvÆ 2005) that transgress the boundaries of propriety implied by the kodrat wanita code. As Catherine Belsey argues in her analyses of Sherlock Holmes stories by Conan Doyle, even the most shadowy and peripheral of feminine presences may succeed in disrupting the most logical of male narratives based on reason and scientific transparency. It is these female presences, specifically those on the periphery of kodrat wanita, which I seek to identify and bring to the centre of attention and analysis.


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  • Unpublished

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Copyright 2007 the author Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2007. Includes bibliographical references. Ch. 1. Calon Arang: master narrative or witch power? -- Ch. 2. Consorts, concubines and courtesans -- Ch. 3. Dancers -- Ch. 4. Prostitution -- Ch. 5. Lesbians: garlic among the onions? -- Ch. 6. Silence/madness/death

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  • Open

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