Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma
Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma presents the first study of one of the most prevalent and critical topics of public discourse in colonial Burma: the woman of the khit kala—”the woman of the times”—who burst onto the covers and pages of novels, newspapers, and advertisements in the 1920s. Educated and politicized, earner and consumer, “Burmese” and “Westernized,” she embodied the possibilities and challenges of the modern era, as well as the hopes and fears it evoked. In Refiguring Women, Chie Ikeya interrogates what these shifting and competing images of the feminine reveal about the experience of modernity in colonial Burma. She marshals a wide range of hitherto unexamined Burmese language sources to analyze both the discursive figurations of the woman of the khit kala and the choices and actions of actual women who—whether pursuing higher education, becoming political, or adopting new clothes and hairstyles—unsettled existing norms and contributed to making the woman of the khit kala the privileged idiom for debating colonialism, modernization, and nationalism.
The first book-length social history of Burma to utilize gender as a category of sustained analysis, Refiguring Women challenges the reigning nationalist and anticolonial historical narratives of a conceptually and institutionally monolithic colonial modernity that made inevitable the rise of ethnonationalism and xenophobia in Burma. The study demonstrates the irreducible heterogeneity of the colonial encounter and draws attention to the conjoined development of cosmopolitanism and nationalism. Ikeya illuminates the important roles that Burmese men and women played as cultural brokers and agents of modernity. She shows how their complex engagements with social reform, feminism, anticolonialism, media, and consumerism rearticulated the boundaries of belonging and foreignness in religious, racial, and ethnic terms. Refiguring Women adds significantly to examinations of gender and race relations, modernization, and nationalism in colonized regions. It will be of interest to a broad audience—not least those working in the fields of Southeast Asian studies, colonial and postcolonial studies, cultural studies, and women’s and gender studies.
Women in the Shadows: Gender, Puppets, and the Power of Tradition in Bali
Wayang kulit, or shadow puppetry, connects a mythic past to the present through public ritual performance and is one of most important performance traditions in Bali. The dalang, or puppeteer, is revered in Balinese society as a teacher and spiritual leader. Recently, women have begun to study and perform in this traditionally male role, an innovation that has triggered resistance and controversy.
In Women in the Shadows, Jennifer Goodlander draws on her own experience training as a dalang as well as interviews with early women dealing and leading artists to upend the usual assessments of such gender role shifts. She argues that rather than assuming that women performers are necessarily mounting a challenge to tradition, “tradition” in Bali must be understood as a system of power that is inextricably linked to gender hierarchy.
She examines the very idea of “tradition” and how it forms both an ideological and social foundation in Balinese culture, and ultimately, Goodlander offers a richer, more complicated understanding of both tradition and gender in Balinese society. Following in the footsteps of other eminent reflexive ethnographers, Women in the Shadows will be of value to anyone interested in performance studies, Southeast Asian culture, or ethnographic methods.
The Female Voice of Myanmar: Khin Myo Chit to Aung San Suu Kyi