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Seeing Beauty, Sensing Race in Transnational Indonesia

Seeing Beauty, Sensing Race in Transnational Indonesia

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    Seeing Beauty, Sensing Race in Transnational Indonesia
    Book Description:

    In Indonesia, light skin color has been desirable throughout recorded history.Seeing Beauty, Sensing Raceexplores Indonesia's changing beauty ideals and traces them to a number of influences: first to ninth-century India and some of the oldest surviving Indonesian literary works; then, a thousand years later, to the impact of Dutch colonialism and the wartime occupation of Japan; and finally, in the post-colonial period, to the popularity of American culture. The book shows how the transnational circulation of people, images, and ideas have shaped and shifted discourses and hierarchies of race, gender, skin color, and beauty in Indonesia. The author employs "affect" theories and feminist cultural studies as a lens through which to analyze a vast range of materials, including the Old Javanese epic poemRamayana,archival materials, magazine advertisements, commercial products, and numerous interviews with Indonesian women.The book offers a rich repertoire of analytical and theoretical tools that allow readers to rethink issues of race and gender in a global context and understand how feelings and emotions--Western constructs as well as Indian, Javanese, and Indonesian notions such asrasaandmalu-contribute to and are constitutive of transnational and gendered processes of racialization. Saraswati argues that it is how emotions come to be attached to certain objects and how they circulate that shape the "emotionscape" of white beauty in Indonesia. Her ground-breaking work is a nuanced theoretical exploration of the ways in which representations of beauty and the emotions they embody travel geographically and help shape attitudes and beliefs toward race and gender in a transnational world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3787-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction Seeing Beauty, Sensing Race in Transnational Indonesia
    (pp. 1-14)

    In Indonesia, light skin has been the desirable color for as long as we can document. As this book will make clear, in some of the oldest surviving Indonesian literature, such as the epic poemRamayana, adapted in the late ninth century from its Indian origin, light-skinned women were the dominant beauty norm of the time. In both the Indian and Indonesian versions ofRamayana, beautiful women are described as having white shining faces, like the full moon. One thousand years later during the early twentieth century when Dutch colonialism fully matured in Indonesia, images of Caucasian white beauty were...

  5. 1 Rasa, Race, and Ramayana: Sensing and Censoring the History of Color in Precolonial Java
    (pp. 15-35)

    Historyaffectsus. Historical narratives of colonialism and slavery may provoke our anger; tales of freedom and independence can awaken our courage and hope. One may wonder, however, if and howaffectaffects history. Indeed, when we make visible the underlying emotions that linger in history and shape how history is constructed, how andwillthe past be understood differently? My intention is to document the ways in which the circulations of an ideal beauty helped shape discourses of gender, skin color, and “race” during the late ninth and early tenth century in pre-European colonial Java, specifically in the Old...

  6. 2 Rooting and Routing Whiteness in Colonial Indonesia: From Dutch to Japanese Whiteness
    (pp. 36-59)

    Beauty may come in different shapes, but apparently not in different shades. At least this is what images of beauty that circulated in early- to mid-twentieth-century Indonesia would seem to suggest. If during the precolonial era the brightness of the moon functioned as an objective correlative for beauty, in early- to mid-twentieth-century Indonesia what appeared on the pages of women’s magazines were the beautiful faces of different races of women models—Caucasian, Japanese, Indonesian—but all white.

    Tracing the shifts in beauty ideals during the colonial period, I will focus solely on the emergence of two categories of whiteness: “European...

  7. 3 Indonesian White Beauty: Spatializing Race and Racializing Spatial Tropes
    (pp. 60-82)

    “Where are you from?” a fellow scholar politely asked me. A bit of small talk seemed appropriate: we were shoving our belongings into the lockers of KITLV library in Leiden, the Netherlands. It was the summer of 2006. I was then a graduate student doing research for my dissertation. “Well, I live in Canada, but I go to school in the United States; this summer, I am staying with my sister in France. So, where should I say I am from?” I playfully threw the question right back at him, purposefully omitting “Indonesia” in my answer to subtly hint at...

  8. 4 Cosmopolitan Whiteness: The Effects and Affects of Skin-Whitening Advertisements in a Transnational Women’s Magazine
    (pp. 83-107)

    In the June 2006 edition of the Indonesian version of the magazineCosmopolitan(hereafter referred to asCosmo), Estée Lauder’s “Cyber White” ad appeared on the inside front-cover spread of the magazine. In the following issue of the IndonesianCosmo(July 2006) Kosé’s Sekkisei whitening ad with the slogan “Skin of Innocence” appeared as the front-cover gatefold. Interestingly, in the late 1980s and 1990s when the preference for light skin color was visually represented by “Indonesian white” women, neither of these transnational ads employed Indonesian models: a Caucasian woman models the “Cyber White” ad and a Japanese woman models the...

  9. 5 Malu: Coloring Shame and Shaming the Color of Beauty
    (pp. 108-128)

    In the prior chapter, I examined advertisements for skin-whitening products in the IndonesianCosmo. The analysis brings to light the transnational meanings of whiteness in the early twenty-first century. But what of the products themselves? And what are we to make of their popularity? In Indonesia, skin-whitening products are ranked highest among all revenue-generating products in the cosmetics industry. Unilever Indonesia spent IDR 97 billion ($10.4 million) in 2003 advertising just one of its Pond’s skin-whitening products (Clay 2005). This sum is larger than the estimated IDR 72 billion spent on advertising anti-dandruff shampoo—the top product in the hair...

  10. Conclusion Shades of Emotions in a Transnational Context
    (pp. 129-136)

    As geographer Yi-Fu Tuan articulates, “to strengthen our sense of self the past needs to be rescued and made accessible. Various devices exist to shore up the crumbling landscapes of the past” (1977, 187). This book thus asks that as we construct a transnational history of race, gender, and skin color that we make “emotions” one of these devices. This is because what one remembers reveals the ideology of emotions through which these memories are filtered. The same goes for what one represents and the stories one narrates. Emotions indeed direct not only the questions historians ask, but also the...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 137-142)
    (pp. 143-162)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 163-174)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 175-181)