Gendered Anxieties: Islam, Women’s Rights, and Moral Hierarchy in Java


Adamson, Clarissa. 2007. “Gendered Anxieties: Islam, Women’s Rights, and Moral Hierarchy in Java.” Anthropological Quarterly 80 (1): 5–37.

Author: Clarissa Adamson


This paper examines debates that occur in the course of Muslim women's rights advocacy in Java, Indonesia, to provide critical ethnographic insights into the ways that gender issues and notions of family are implicated in political consciousness about nationhood, religious identity, boundaries, and governance. Javanese Muslim women's rights activists focus on the historical contextualization of religious doctrine to argue against what they see as misguided interpretations of Islam that threaten to control women. This paper examines these efforts through a close reading of the discursive shifts and arguments that take place in the context of programs designed to promote women's rights in Islamic education in Java. It argues that the challenge for women's rights activists and intellectuals is to locate the ways that moderate or normative social and religious values can combine during times of change or crisis to reinforce a moral hierarchy of gender relations and an "idea of woman" in an attempt to control such change. The paper demonstrates that in Java, a moral hierarchy of gender relations, mimetically extended from family to nation, dovetails with religious interpretations to resolve anxieties about social change and security through the control of women.

Topics: Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Governance, Nationalism, Political Participation, Religion, Rights, Women's Rights, Security Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Indonesia

Year: 2007

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