Bookshelf Spotlight: Gender in Southeast Asia

Featured Books

* Shamanism, Catholicism and Gender Relations in Colonial Philippines 1521-1685
* Gender Diversity in Indonesia: Sexuality, Islam and Queer Selves
* Ladyboys: The Secret World of Thailand’s Third Gender
* The Mak Nyahs: Malaysian Male to Female Transsexuals
* Power, Resistance And Women Politicians in Cambodia: Discourses of Emancipation
* Erotic Triangles: Sundanese Dance and Masculinity in West Java

Shamanism, Catholicism and Gender Relations in Colonial Philippines 1521-1685

by Carolyn Brewer
Ashgate Publishing , 2004

When colonizers from the West came to the Philippines, they brought with them successively different views of what constituted “good” and “bad” women. Caught in this series of re-definitions were the female shamans, who fell from the highest prestige to the designation of “witch.” Brewer (religion and construction of gender, Murdoch U.) examines how religion, ideology, and power changed the positions of all women in the Philippines in the early colonial period, and how women who once controlled their own ideology came into conflict with outside forces whose power came from a completely different tradition. Brewer includes a glossary and notes on her resources. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

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Gender Diversity in Indonesia: Sexuality, Islam and Queer Selves

By Sharyn Graham Davies
T & F Books UK , 2010

Indonesia provides particularly interesting examples of gender diversity. Same-sex relations, transvestism and cross-gender behaviour have long been noted amongst a wide range of Indonesian peoples. This book explores the nature of gender diversity in Indonesia, and with the world’s largest Muslim population, it examines Islam in this context. Based on extensive ethnographic research, it discusses in particular calalai – female-born individuals who identify as neither woman nor man; calabai – male-born individuals who also identify as neither man nor woman; and bissu – an order of shamans who embody female and male elements. The book examines the lives and roles of these variously gendered subjectivities in everyday life, including in low-status and high-status ritual such as wedding ceremonies, fashion parades, cultural festivals, Islamic recitations and shamanistic rituals. The book analyses the place of such subjectivities in relation to theories of gender, gender diversity and sexuality.

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Ladyboys: The Secret World of Thailand’s Third Gender

By Pornchai Sereemongkonpol and Susan Aldous
Maverick House, 2008

This extraordinary book offers intimate details of the lives that they’ve never publicly revealed. They talk about the choices they’ve made, their relationships, families, frustrations and hopes. The stories include those of an exotic cabaret performer, a sex worker and even a Muay Thai boxing champion. “Ladyboys” will leave you amused, saddened, and entertained.

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The Mak Nyahs: Malaysian Male to Female Transsexuals

By Yik Koon Teh
Eastern University, 2003

This book explores the issues of the transsexuals in Malaysia. Through numerous studies, interviews with the relevant parties and accounts from the ‘mak nyahs’ themselves, The Mak Nyahs: Malaysian Male To Female Transsexuals gives a profound insight into the world of transsexuals the history and definition of ‘mak nyahs’, what it means to be a ‘mak nyah’ in Malaysia, transsexuals in other countries and the views of the relevant parties regarding transsexuals in Malaysia among others. For those who seek a deeper understanding of the ‘mak nyahs’, this book provides intriguing and enlightening facts and accounts, which help to broaden ones perspective of this community who form part of the diversity of the human landscape.

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Power, Resistance And Women Politicians in Cambodia: Discourses of Emancipation

By Mona Lilja
Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, 2008

These unique insights into the political struggles of Cambodian women extend the concept of resistance and create a framework of analysis that will inspire researchers in other fields. In a world where there are few women politicians, Cambodia is still noticeable as a country where strong cultural and societal forces act to subjugate women and limit their political opportunities. However, in their everyday life, Cambodian women do try to improve their situation and increase their political power, not least via manifold strategies of resistance. This book focuses on Cambodian female politicians and the strategies they deploy in their attempts to destabilize the cultural boundaries and hierarchies that restrain them. In particular, the book focuses on how women use discourses and identities as means of resistance, a concept only recently of wide interest among scholars studying power. The value of this book is thus twofold: not only does it give a unique insight into the political struggles of Cambodian women but also offers new insights to studies of power.

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Erotic Triangles: Sundanese Dance and Masculinity in West Java

By Henry Spiller
University of Chicago Press, 2010

In West Java, Indonesia, all it takes is a woman’s voice and a drum beat to make a man get up and dance. Every day, men there-be they students, pedicab drivers, civil servants, or businessmen-breach ordinary standards of decorum and succumb to the rhythm at village ceremonies, weddings, political rallies, and night-clubs. The music the men dance to varies from traditional gong ensembles to the contemporary pop known as dangdut, but they consistently dance with great enthusiasm. In Erotic Triangles, Henry Spiller draws on decades of ethnographic research to explore the reasons behind this phenomenon, arguing that Sundanese men use dance to explore and enact contradictions in their gender identities.

Framing the three crucial elements of Sundanese dance-the female entertainer, the drumming, and men’s sense of freedom-as a triangle, Spiller connects them to a range of other theoretical perspectives, drawing on thinkers from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Lévi-Strauss, and Freud to Euclid. By granting men permission to literally perform their masculinity, Spiller ultimately concludes, dance provides a crucial space for both reinforcing and resisting orthodox gender ideologies.

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