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The Gay Archipelago

The Gay Archipelago: Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia

Tom Boellstorff
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Gay Archipelago
    Book Description:

    The Gay Archipelagois the first book-length exploration of the lives of gay men in Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation and home to more Muslims than any other country. Based on a range of field methods, it explores how Indonesian gay and lesbian identities are shaped by nationalism and globalization. Yet the case of gay and lesbian Indonesians also compels us to ask more fundamental questions about how we decide when two things are "the same" or "different." The book thus examines the possibilities of an "archipelagic" perspective on sameness and difference.

    Tom Boellstorff examines the history of homosexuality in Indonesia, and then turns to how gay and lesbian identities are lived in everyday Indonesian life, from questions of love, desire, and romance to the places where gay men and lesbian women meet. He also explores the roles of mass media, the state, and marriage in gay and lesbian identities.

    The Gay Archipelagois unusual in taking the whole nation-state of Indonesia as its subject, rather than the ethnic groups usually studied by anthropologists. It is by looking at the nation in cultural terms, not just political terms, that identities like those of gay and lesbian Indonesians become visible and understandable. In doing so, this book addresses questions of sexuality, mass media, nationalism, and modernity with implications throughout Southeast Asia and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4405-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Note on Indonesian Terms and Italicization
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Part One The Indonesian Subject

    • CHAPTER ONE Introduction
      (pp. 3-34)

      If you have opened this book hoping for a traveler’s tale in gay Indonesia, you may be disappointed. Yet I hope you will do more than skip ahead to the stories I tell. While I love a good story as much as anyone else, I also realize that we live in a time where the numbing reduction of debate to sound bites reflects a deep-seated hostility to asking the hard questions. Some readers may find this book refreshingly free of jargon; others may find it full of jargon. While it’s difficult to please everyone, I have tried to write the...

    • CHAPTER TWO Historical Temptations
      (pp. 35-57)

      Subject positions, the topic of this book, do not always have names, but like any aspect of culture they always have a history. They come into being at a certain period of time, which shapes them, and they also change through time as long as they persist. Subject positions also always contain spatial scales within them (N. Brenner 1998; Harvey 2000). To be a “Yale student” has a different spatial scale than to be a “New Yorker” or “Japanese.” The various subject positions through which one lives at any point in time may not have isomorphic spatial scales: one’s sense...

    • CHAPTER THREE Dubbing Culture
      (pp. 58-88)

      It should be clear from the last two chapters that ethnolocalized homosexual and transvestite professional subject positions like “bissu” are distinct from the waria subject position, and that both are distinct from thegayandlesbisubject positions. This chapter focuses onmoments of originfor thegayandlesbisubject positions: (1) on the social level—the historical context in which they first appeared; and (2) on the personal level—how particular Indonesians come to see themselves asgayorlesbi. I foreground the crucial role of mass media and ask how these moments of origin illuminate the mutually...

  7. Part Two Opening to Gay and Lesbi Worlds

    • CHAPTER FOUR Islands of Desire
      (pp. 91-125)

      We do not know whether two things are to be regarded as the same or not unless we are told the context in which the question arises. However much we may be tempted to think otherwise, there is no absolute unchanging sense to the words “the same.”

      —Peter Winch,The Idea of a Social Science

      If becominggayorlesbitypically begins with mass media, how is a wholegayorlesbilife forged from this first moment of dubbing culture?

      ManygayandlesbiIndonesians express the idea of agayorlesbilife by speaking of agay...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Geographies of Belonging
      (pp. 126-156)

      Warias are usually identified as such by playmates or neighbors long before they take up waria subjectivity. There is no need for learning of the concept “waria” through mass media and little notion of a “waria world”; warias are part of the recognized social mosaic. In contrast,gayandlesbiIndonesians’ “desire for the same” has no place in thenormalworld. They must contend with a society that is largely unaware of their existence, living their sexual subjectivities within thegayandlesbiworlds.¹ There is more to agayorlesbilife than beinggayorlesbi, but...

    • CHAPTER SIX Practices of Self, Tests of Faith
      (pp. 157-184)

      As noted in the last chapter, thegayorlesbiworlds are “tactical” and cannot lay claim to the physical spaces ofnormalsociety. As a result, embodied practices shoulder the burden of constituting the “islands” ofgayandlesbilives. Through practice there is more to beinggayorlesbithan same-gender sex: it is astyleof life. To speak of style is tricky because in the West nonheterosexual sexualities are delegitimated as “lifestyles.” Interpreted on its own terms, however, the notion of style proves useful for thinking through the dynamics ofgayandlesbisubjectivities. It has...

  8. Part Three Sexuality and Nation

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Postcolonial State and Gay and Lesbi Subjectivities
      (pp. 187-215)

      Ruling or dominant conceptions of the world [may] not directly prescribe the mental content of … the heads of the dominated classes. But the circle of dominant ideas does accumulate the symbolic power to map or classify the world for others; its classifications do acquire not only the constraining power of dominance over other modes of thought but also the inertial authority of habit and instinct. It becomes the horizon of the taken for granted: what the world is and how it works, for all practical purposes.

      —Stuart Hall, “The Toad in the Garden”

      Part 2 of this book explored...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT The Gay Archipelago
      (pp. 216-232)

      In the proceeding chapters I have investigated how thegayandlesbisubject positions—licensed by no tradition, marketed by no corporation, and supported by no official—are taken up on the margins of society by thousands, if not millions, of Indonesians. I have emphasized how the national, not ethnolocalized, character of these subject positions has important consequences forgayandlesbilives and also indicates how an anthropology of similitude can contribute to understanding intersections of globalization and postcoloniality. The concepts “gay” and “lesbi” are certainly shaped by globalizing processes, but thenationis the spatial scale and cultural-political-economic...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 233-242)
  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 243-266)
  11. Index
    (pp. 267-282)