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Identity in Southeast Asia

0900–1030, Saturday 16 April 2016, C4

Danica Salazar
Oxford University Press

Part 1 – List of Papers:

  • Burmese Male Sex Workers in Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Queer Indonesian Islam: Negotiating LGBT and Muslim Identities
  • Gender and the City: Homosociality and Gender Segregation among Bangkok’s Japanese Migrants

Part 2 – List of Papers:

  • From seen and not heard to catalysts of change: Women in Balinese literature and performance
  • Batik Cirebon or Batik Peranakan?
  • Fate of the Chinese Market in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: A transnational market or an ethnic identity

Part 1:

Paper 1: Burmese Male Sex Workers in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Herbary Yu Zhang
Lingnan University/UNESCO

In this paper, the primary data and secondary data as well as personal knowledge of the writer are conducted and presented to explore about the Burmese ‘male sex workers’ in the context of Gender and MSM (Men who have sex with Men) population, by focusing Chiang Mai, Thailand as the case study areas. It starts with stating the meaning of male sex industry and male sex worker in the MSM population in the area of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Then, it expands with the literature review from the Social Scientist’s perspectives. Back to the study areas, the reasons why these men entered into sex industry, what are their background and childhood memory on the way back home, what are their previous and current works situations, how are their living situations and salary, living expenses, financial situation of family in back home country and if they have any intention to switch or quit from the sex industry will be presented. Moreover, exploration about their health and the stigma and or discrimination by the society will be presented. It later analyzes the health risk of these male sex workers, the social stigma upon them and their emotional feelings.


Paper 2: Queer Indonesian Islam: Negotiating LGBT and Muslim Identities

Diego Garcia Rodriguez
Lund University

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Muslims struggle to find ways to reconcile their sexual orientation and gender with Islamic piety. In the worst cases, they are also victims of exclusion and violence. This study sets up Indonesia as a context to explore how these conflicts might be mediated with the aim to find out potential broader implications for Muslim LGBTs worldwide. Due to the development of a progressive Islam starting in the early 1980s based on tolerance, pluralism and mutual respect, the acceptance of sexual minorities within the Muslim sphere is growing through the work of Indonesian Muslim scholars. But how do the LGBT communities negotiate their sexual and Muslim identities in the country with the largest Muslim population in the world? This study explores the way in which these communities construct and negotiate their identities and aims to fill the gap in literature regarding the reconciliation of Indonesian Muslim and LGBT selves. A two-way process, in which Islam not only shapes gay identities but is also influenced by the LGBT movement, leads to the reconciliation of sexual minorities and religious tradition. This study argues that new interpretations of Islamic texts can be a powerful tool for these groups, leading to the convergence of religious and queer agency. A new self that combines Islamic piety and LGBT selves evidences that these are not dichotomous concepts, but can coexist and mutually shape each other.


Paper 3: Gender and the City: Homosociality and Gender Segregation among Bangkok’s Japanese Migrants

Artour Mitski

Ever since their first documented emergence in the 16th century, Japanese migrants have been a powerful economic and cultural presence in Siam/Thailand. Last three decades their migration pattern has been increasingly tilting towards individual pursuit of various personal projects, with more women taking an active stand in their life by emigrating abroad on their own. This fieldwork-based paper explores gender roles and relations among the Japanese in Central Bangkok, in particular, the way gender segregation and homosociality play out in the local labour market participation as well as in how Japanese formal and informal gatherings take place.
Is it merely an export of the Japanese village (Befu 1991) or does Bangkok present opportunities for gender relations to change? Methodologically based on semi-structured interviews and urban-setting participant observation, this paper sheds light on how risk society (Beck 1992) in a global city (Sassen 2001) affects its transnational migrants’ concepts and lived experiences of gender.


Part 2:

Paper 4: From seen and not heard to catalysts of change: Women in Balinese literature and performance

Carmencita Palermo
“L’Orientale”, University of Naples

Over the past 20 years the number of Indonesian women writers has increased. More and more their works spark global interest which is stimulated partly by translations and international events. Indonesia was the Guest of Honour at the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair at which Balinese women writers Oka Rusmini and Cok Sawiri (also performer and director) were invited. These women represent a shift of women’s portraits from oppression to resistance. They are considered voices in Balinese literature and performance and reflect the contemporary reality of Bali, between tradition and modernity. As such, we appreciate and celebrate their work; we celebrate their focus on women in their own culture and for the more “universal” values of their discourse on gender. Today these early translated works are nearly 10 years old. Do they have currency? What of the younger generation and other women writers in Bali? Do they still write, as in the past, about distinctive women’s experiences and concerns? What are the major themes of women writers in Bali today? Do they still feel the need to write on behalf of women? If they write about more general issues, has something been lost as well as gained?


Paper 5: Batik Cirebon or Batik Peranakan?

Thienny Lee
University of Sydney

Batik Peranakan refers to the batik that was produced by the Peranakan Chinese, the acculturated Chinese in the Malay Archipelago. Batik Peranakan was the result of the Peranakan Chinese involvement in batik industry since at least the late nineteenth century in various coastal towns on the North Coast of Java. Peranakan Chinese batik producers in Java incorporated Chinese aesthetic using the Javanese batik technique into their batik production. A whole new range of Batik Peranakan was created for a largely Peranakan Chinese market, transforming Javanese way of making textiles into their own distinctive heirlooms. On the other hand, Batik Cirebon refers to the batik produced in Cirebon, Java including those produced inside or outside the courts. Cirebon is one of the only ancient cities on Java’s north coast where a strong court culture was imposed on the batik designs. Of all the Chinese elements that appear on batik, the case of Cirebon is unique, in the sense that they were not represented as ‘Batik Peranakan’, for instance the infamous designs ‘megamendung’ or heavy clouds design is essentially the design of the Batik Kraton (court) Cirebon. The gradation of different hues on the clouds motifs can be seen from not just the Chinese landscape paintings but also on the embroidered textiles. This paper examines the many Chinese motifs that appear on Batik Cirebon, both produced inside and outside the court. It also considers the many reasons that make these Chinese motifs integrated into the Batik Cirebon instead of the Batik Peranakan.
Paper 6: Fate of the Chinese Market in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: A transnational market or an ethnic identity

Debolina Sen
University of Calcutta

The China Town in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is in the heart of the city. Among a rich diaspora in the city the Chinese has been able to retain their own ethnic identity.They have created a separate economic space within a geographical space. But the paper aims to find out how much this economic space has benefitted Malaysia in the transnational scenario. Whether or not the market can now be called an entirely Chinese entity or captured by Malayan population. Or there can be another possibility that the market has been totally captured by some other ethnic group. The paper also aims to find out why and how transnational migration in Malaysia has been so distinct as to feature as an important urban feature in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.