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Title: The politics of gender in a time of change : gender discourses, institutions, and identities in contemporary Indonesia
Author: Love, Kaleen E.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2008
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This dissertation fundamentally explores the nature of change, and the development interventions that aim to bring this change into a particular society. What emerges is the notion of a ‘spiral’: imagining the dynamic relationship between paradigms and discourses, the institutions and programmes operating in a place, and the way individual identities are constructed in intricate and contradictory ways. Within this spiral, discourse has power – ‘words matter’ – but equally significant is how these words interact dialogically with concrete social structures and institutions – ‘it takes more than changing words to change the world’. Furthermore, these changes are reacted to, and expressed in, the physical, sexed body. In essence, change is ideational, institutional, and embodied. To investigate the politics of change, this dissertation analyses the spiral relationships between gender discourses, institutions, and identities in contemporary Indonesia, focusing on their transmission across Java. It does so by exploring the Indonesian state’s gender policies in the context of globalisation, democratisation, and decentralisation. In this way, the lens of gender allows us to analyse the dynamic interactions between state and society, between ideas and institutions, which impact on everything from cultural structures to physical bodies. Research focuses on the gender policies of the Indonesian Ministry of Women’s Empowerment, substantiated with case study material from United Nations Population Fund reproductive health programmes in West Java. Employing a multi-level, multi-vocal theoretical framework, the thesis analyses gender discourses and relational structures (how discourses circulate to construct the Indonesian woman), gender institutions and social structures (how discourses are translated into programmes), and gender identities and embodied structures (how discourses enter the home and the body). Critically, studying gender requires analysing the human body as the site of both structural and symbolic power. This dissertation thus argues for renewed emphasis on a ‘politics of the body’, recognising that bodies are the material foundations from which gender discourses derive their naturalising power and hence ability to structure social relations. The danger of forgetting this politics of the body is that it allows for slippage between ‘gender’ and ‘women’; policy objectives cannot be disentangled from the reality of physical bodies and their social construction. This thesis therefore argues that there are distinct and even inverse impacts of gender policies in Indonesia. As the ‘liberal’ and ‘modern’ assumptions of gender equality are overlaid onto the patriarchal culture of a society undergoing transformation, women’s bodies and women’s sexuality are always and ever the focus of the social gaze. The gender policies and interventions affecting change on discursive and institutional levels may thus provoke reaction at the level of individual identities that are contrary to explicit intentions. In effect, projects that purport to work on ‘gender’ are often so deeply rooted in underlying gender normativity that their net effect is to reinscribe these gender hierarchies. By exposing the contradictions in these underlying paradigms we gain insight into the politics of a transforming society. Furthermore, engaging with the politics of the body allows us to analyse the spiral processes between discourse and practice, the question of power, and the way men and women embody social structures and experience social transformation.
Supervisor: Lloyd, Cathie ; Carey, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Asia ; Islam ; Philosophy,psychology and sociology of religion ; Anthropology of policy ; Social anthropology ; Organisational behaviour ; Governance and ethics ; Human smuggling and trafficking ; Local Government ; Democratic government ; Public Health ; Families,children and childcare ; Gender ; Households ; Women ; gender ; power ; discourse ; bodies ; women ; empowerment ; policy ; development ; government ; reproductive health ; modernity ; change ; mainstreaming ; institutions