Between Abjection and World-Making: Spatial Dynamics in the Lives of Indonesian Waria

Abstract

The lives of Indonesian waria (transgender women) are substantially shaped by spatial dynamics. As a result of social and spatial exclusion, subsequent migration and economic needs, a lifestyle pattern around daily work in beauty salons and street nightlife tied to transactional sex has evolved in many parts of urban Indonesia. Drawing on ethnographic research in the Indonesian regions of Java and West Papua, I demonstrate that despite tremendous spatial abjection, salons and street nightlife are also productive, transformative and conjoining spatialities that foster waria subjectivity in affective relations with their intimate partners, the community, the phantasmic promise of the transnational mediascape and Indonesia as a nation. The places that waria occupy may spark moral prejudice and targeted violence, but simultaneously they are sites of agency at which waria experience self-affirmation and a sense of belonging while embodying through gendered performance the envisioned mobility at both national and transnational scales. The paper thus foregrounds how spaces and subjectivities are mutually constitutive, forging one another, as well as how certain spatialities hold potential to disrupt the sense of marginality.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Ahearn, M. Laura. 2001. Language and Agency. – Annual Review of Anthropology 30: 109–137. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.anthro.30.1.109.

  • Anderson, Benedict. 2006 [1983]. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Revised edn. London; New York, NY: Verso.

  • Appadurai, Arjun. 1996. Modernity At Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis, MN; London: University of Minnesota Press.

  • Ariyanto, Rido Triawan; Suryadi A. Radjab and Eva K. Sundari. 2007. Hak kerja waria tanggung jawab negara. Jakarta: Arus Pelangi in association with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

  • Bachelard, Gaston. 1964 [1958]. The Poetics of Space, translated by Maria Jolas. New York, NY: Orion Press.

  • Bailey, M. Marlon. 2014. Engendering Space: Ballroom Culture and the Spatial Practice of Possibility in Detroit. – Gender, Place and Culture 21 (4): 489–507. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2013.786688.

  • Blackwood, Evelyn. 2010. Falling into the Lesbi World Desire and Difference in Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21313/hawaii/9780824834425.001.0001.

  • Boellstorff, Tom. 2003. Dubbing Culture: Indonesian ‘Gay’ and ‘Lesbi’ Subjectivities and Ethnography in an Already Globalized World. – American Ethnologist 30 (2): 225–242. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/ae.2003.30.2.225.

  • Boellstorff, Tom. 2007. A Coincidence of Desires: Anthropology, Queer Studies, Indonesia. Durham: Duke University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822389538.

  • Butler, Judith. 1993. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. New York, NY: Routledge.

  • Butler, Judith. 2009. Undoing Gender. New York, NY: Routledge.

  • Butt, Leslie and Jenny Munro. 2007. Rebel Girls? Unplanned Pregnancy and Colonialism in Highlands Papua, Indonesia. – Culture, Health and Sexuality 9 (6): 585–598. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13691050701515324.

  • Caillol, Daphné. 2018. The Spatial Dimension of Agency: The Everyday Urban Practices of Filipina Domestic Workers in Amman, Jordan. – Gender, Place and Culture 25 (5): 645–665. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2018.1472555.

  • Davies, Sarah Graham. 2016. Indonesia’s Anti-LGBT Panic. – East Asia Forum 8 (2): 8–11.

  • Estimates and Projection... 2017. Estimates and Projections of HIV/AIDS in Indonesia 2015–2020. Jakarta: Directorate General of Disease Prevention and Control. Ministry of Health Republic Indonesia. http://www.depkes.go.id/resources/download/info-terkini/ESTIMATES_AND_PROJECTION_OF_HIVAIDS_IN_INDONESIA_2015___2020.pdf (accessed June 30, 2019).

  • Gorman-Murray, Andrew and Catherine J. Nash. 2014. Mobile Places, Relational Spaces: Conceptualizing Change in Sydney’s LGBTQ Neighborhoods. – Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 32 (4): 622–641. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1068/d14012.

  • Gregory, Derek; Ron Johnston, Geraldine Pratt, Michael Watts and Sarah Whatmore, eds. 2011. The Dictionary of Human Geography. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

  • Gubernur Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta. 2014. Peraturan Daerah Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta Nomor 1 Tahun 2014 Tentang Penanganan Gelandangan dan Pengemis. https://peraturan.bpk.go.id/Home/Details/25699 (accessed October 4, 2019).

  • Hegarty, Benjamin. 2017. “When I Was Transgender”: Visibility, Subjectivity, and Queer Aging in Indonesia. – Medicine Anthropology Theory 4 (2): 70–80. DOI: https://doi.org/10.17157/mat.4.2.399.

  • Hegarty, Benjamin. 2018. Under the Lights, onto the Stage: Becoming Waria through National Glamour in New Order Indonesia. – TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 5 (3): 355–377. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/23289252-6900738.

  • hooks, bell. 1999. Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

  • Hubbard, Phil. 1998. Sexuality, Immorality and the City: Red-Light Districts and the Marginalisation of Female Street Prostitutes. – Gender, Place and Culture 5 (1): 55–76. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09663699825322.

  • Indonesia IBBS. 2015. Ministry of Health Indonesia. Integrated Biological and Behavioral Survey (Survei Terpadu Biologis dan Perilaku). Unpublished research data. https://www.aidsdatahub.org/indonesia-country-slides-2019 (accessed October 4, 2019).

  • Irigaray, Lucy. 1985 [1977]. This Sex Which Is Not One, translated by Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

  • Johnson, Mark. 1997. Beauty and Power: Transgendering and Cultural Transformation in the Southern Philippines. Oxford; New York, NY: Berg.

  • Johnston, Lynda. 2002. Borderline Bodies. – Subjectivities, Knowledges, and Feminist Geographies, edited by Liz Bondi. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 75–89.

  • Johnston, Lynda and Robyn Longhurst. 2010. Space, Place, and Sex: Geographies of Sexualities. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

  • Knopp, Larry. 2004. Ontologies of Place, Placelessness, and Movement: Queer Quests for Identity and Their Impacts on Contemporary Geographic Thought. – Gender, Place and Culture 11 (1): 121–134. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369042000188585.

  • Kristeva, Julia. 1982. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, translated by Leon S. Roudiez. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

  • Lefebvre, Henri. 1991. The Production of Space. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

  • Lindquist, Johan. 2010. Putting Ecstasy to Work: Pleasure, Prostitution, and Inequality in the Indonesian Borderlands. – Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 17 (2–3): 280–303. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10702891003733500.

  • Mahmood, Saba. 2011. Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvct00cf.

  • Massey, Doreen. 1994. Space, Place, and Gender. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

  • McNay, Lois. 2000. Gender and Agency: Reconfiguring the Subject in Feminist and Social Theory. Cambridge; Oxford: Polity Press.

  • Muñoz, José Esteban. 2009. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York, NY: NYU Press.

  • Namaste, Ki. 1996. Genderbashing: Sexuality, Gender, and the Regulation of Public Space. – Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14 (2): 221–240. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1068/d140221.

  • Nelson, Lise. 1999. Bodies (and Spaces) do Matter: The Limits of Performativity. – Gender, Place and Culture 6 (4): 331–353. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09663699924926.

  • Nyers, Peter. 2003. Abject Cosmopolitanism: The Politics of Protection in the Anti-Deportation Movement. – Third World Quarterly 24 (6): 1069–1093. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01436590310001630071.

  • Ochoa, Marcia. 2014. Queen for a Day: Transformistas, Beauty Queens, and the Performance of Femininity in Venezuela. Durham; London: Duke University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822376996.

  • Pausacker, Helen. 2015. Indonesian Beauty Queens: Embodying Ethnicity, Sexual Morality and the Nation. – Sex and Sexualities in Contemporary Indonesia: Sexual Politics, Health, Diversity and Representations, edited by Linda Rae Bennett and Sarah Graham Davies. London; New York, NY: Routledge, 273–292.

  • Platt, Maria; Sarah Graham Davies and Linda Rae Bennett. 2018. Contestations of Gender, Sexuality and Morality in Contemporary Indonesia. – Asian Studies Review 42 (1): 1–15. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10357823.2017.1409698.

  • Rubin, Gayle. 2002. Studying Sexual Subcultures: Excavating the Ethnography of Gay Communities in Urban North America. – Out in Theory: The Emergence of Lesbian and Gay Anthropology, edited by Ellen Lewin and William L. Leap. Urbana, MD; Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 17–68. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5406/j.ctvvng2r.6.

  • Said, W. Edward. 1979. Orientalism. New York, NY: Vintage.

  • Saraswati, L. Ayu. 2010. Cosmopolitan Whiteness: The Effects and Affects of Skin-Whitening Advertisements in a Transnational Women’s Magazine in Indonesia. – Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 10 (2): 15–41. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2979/meridians.2010.10.2.15.

  • Schutz, Alfred and Thomas Luckmann. 1973. Structures of the Life-World 1. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

  • Sniekers, Marijke. 2017. Defining Dreams: Young Mothers’ Agency in Constructions of Space. – Social and Cultural Geography 19 (8): 1073–1096. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2017.1344872.

  • Soja, W. Edward. 1996. Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

  • Solehudin, Imam. 2018. Ratusan lokalisasi ditutup, mayoritas ada di provinsi ini [Hundreds of sex work districts were closed, the majority in this province]. – Jawa Pos, January 13. https://www.jawapos.com/features/humaniora/13/01/2018/ratusan-lokalisasi-ditutup-mayoritasada-di-provinsi-ini/ (accessed February 4, 2018).

  • Stodulka, Thomas. 2016. Coming of Age on the Streets of Java: Coping with Marginality, Stigma and Illness. Bielefeld: Transcript. DOI: https://doi.org/10.14361/9783839436080.

  • Stryker, Susan; Paisley Currah and Lisa Jean Moore. 2008. Introduction: Trans-, Trans, or Transgender? – Women’s Studies Quarterly 36 (3/4): 11–22. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/wsq.0.0112.

  • Thajib, Ferdiansyah. 2018. The Making and Breaking of Indonesian Muslim Queer Safe Spaces. – Borderlands 17 (1): 1–24.

  • The Washington Post. 2011. Miss Universe 2011 pageant crowns Miss Angola, Leila Lopes. – The Washington Post, September 13. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/miss-universe-2011-pageant-crowns-miss-angola-leila-lopes/2011/09/13/gIQA5fwAQK_story.html (accessed December 10, 2017).

  • Toomistu, Terje. 2019a. Embodied Notions of Belonging: Practices of Beauty among Waria in West Papua, Indonesia. – Asian Studies Review 43 (4): 581–599. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10357823.2019.1657066.

  • Toomistu, Terje. 2019b. Playground Love: Sex Work, Pleasure, and Self-Affirmation in the Urban Nightlife of Indonesian Waria. – Culture, Health and Sexuality 21 (2): 205–218. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2018.1459847.

OPEN ACCESS

Journal + Issues

Search