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The Domestication of Desire

The Domestication of Desire: Women, Wealth, and Modernity in Java

SUZANNE APRIL BRENNER
Copyright Date: 1998
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1r2gc1
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    The Domestication of Desire
    Book Description:

    While doing fieldwork in the modernizing Javanese city of Solo during the late 1980s, Suzanne Brenner came upon a neighborhood that seemed like a museum of a bygone era: Laweyan, a once-thriving production center of batik textiles, had embraced modernity under Dutch colonial rule, only to fend off the modernizing forces of the Indonesian state during the late twentieth century. Focusing on this community, Brenner examines what she calls the making of the "unmodern." She portrays a merchant enclave clinging to its distinctive forms of social life and highlights the unique power of women in the marketplace and the home--two domains closely linked to each other through local economies of production and exchange. Against the social, political, and economic developments of late-colonial and postcolonial Java, Brenner describes how an innovative, commercially successful lifestyle became an anachronism in Indonesian society, thereby challenging the idea that tradition invariably gives way to modernity in an evolutionary progression.

    Brenner's analysis centers on the importance of gender to processes of social transformation. In Laweyan, the base of economic and social power has shifted from families, in which women were the main producers of wealth and cultural value, to the Indonesian state, which has worked to reorient families toward national political agendas. How such attempts affect women's lives and the meaning of the family itself are key considerations as Brenner questions long-held assumptions about the division between "domestic" and "public" spheres in modern society.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4391-6
    Subjects: Anthropology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. A NOTE ON THE USE OF FOREIGN TERMS AND PROPER NAMES (pp. xv-1)
  6. INTRODUCTION (pp. 3-23)

    SOLO, a densely populated city of about half a million people, seems to epitomize the fitful process of “development” that is so characteristic of Indonesian cities. Located in the interior of Java, an island with roughly the area of New York State but inhabited by well over a hundred million people, Solo (also known as Surakarta) has the feeling of a once-sleepy provincial city that has been rudely awakened by the tremors of modernization emanating from Jakarta, Indonesia’s political and economic hub. Bicycles,bécaks(bicycle-powered pedicabs), and an occasional oxcart or horse-drawn carriage crowd the roads alongside new BMWs, motorcycles,...

  7. Chapter One A NEIGHBORHOOD COMES OF AGE (pp. 24-51)

    THIS CHAPTER introduces the neighborhood of Laweyan, both as a site of ethnographic inquiry and as a community that was born out of the social and economic transformations of late colonial Java. Located on the periphery of Solo, a city long known among Javanese and Westerners alike as a preserve of “authentic” Javanese culture and courtly traditions, Laweyan emerged as an enclave of textile entrepreneurs and merchants that was famed less for its cultural purity than for its remarkable wealth. By focusing on the development of the batik industry, the source of Laweyan’s wealth, the chapter demonstrates how fully Laweyan...

  8. Chapter Two HIERARCHY AND CONTRADICTION: MERCHANTS AND ARISTOCRATS IN COLONIAL JAVA (pp. 52-86)

    THE EIGHTH MONTH of the Javanese Islamic lunar calendar is called Ruwah, derived from the Arabicruh, meaning “spirit” or “soul.”¹ During this month, which directly precedes the Muslim fasting month (Ramadan, or Pasa in Javanese), Javanese villagers and city folk alike make individual and group visits to the grave sites of ancestors and other relatives, venerated Islamic teachers, mystics, legendary rulers, the first settlers of their villages, and any others from whom they wish to request blessings (nyuwun pangèstu, nyuwun berkah), or for whose souls they wish to offer prayers. Ruwah is the time when people return to their...

  9. Chapter Three THE SPECTER OF PAST MODERNITIES (pp. 87-133)

    BY THE LATE 1980s and early 1990s, a number of articles had begun to appear in Indonesian newspapers and magazines lamenting the decline of the batik industry in Java. Quite a few of these articles focused on Laweyan, whose spectral quality made it appealing to journalists seeking to portray the loss of a venerable industry and a distinctive way of life:

    Everything was quiet. The hands of a clock showed that it was already 3:30 p.m. Even the narrow alleys hemmed in by high walls, which served as dividers between the small “palaces” that were so numerous, were deserted. Only...

  10. Chapter Four GENDER AND THE DOMESTICATION OF DESIRE (pp. 134-170)

    IN THE ENERVATING heat and humidity of midafternoon, the normally crowded streets of Solo become quiet as the city’s residents retreat into the relative cool of their homes, to nap or simply to await the relief that evening, and a refreshing bath, will bring. Most shopkeepers close their establishments from 2:00 till 5:00 p.m., children come home from school, and government offices end their working day. At about three o’clock, just as a feeling of lethargy has overcome all but the most energetic of the city’s inhabitants, the door to one of the many large homes of Laweyan opens and...

  11. Chapter Five THE VALUE OF THE BEQUEST: SPIRITUAL ECONOMIES AND ANCESTRAL COMMODITIES (pp. 171-205)

    THE PROCESS of generating and conserving value through the control ofnafsuhas both an economic and spiritual aspect to it. Many Javanese believe that by mastering their desires they can accumulate both material wealth and spiritual merit: both forms of value are understood as an excess that is created through a sacrifice. In Solo, just as women are called on to restrain their passions for the sake of the family’s economic welfare, they are also involved in the production of a more spiritual type of value for themselves, their families, and others. The most potent sacrifices are seen as...

  12. Chapter Six THE MASK OF APPEARANCES: DISORDER IN THE NEW ORDER (pp. 206-224)

    ONLY A DAY after I had moved to Laweyan, I spent part of the afternoon talking to a young man, Mas Hendro, who lived across the street from my new home. Knowing that I had just recently arrived from America and that I had an interest in local culture, he invited me to accompany him to his friend’s wedding, which was to take place later that evening. I accepted the invitation, pleased to have the opportunity to witness my first “ritual” in my new field site—my own rite of passage as an anthropologist.

    What I had read and heard...

  13. Chapter Seven DISCIPLINING THE DOMESTIC SPHERE, DEVELOPING THE MODERN FAMILY (pp. 225-254)

    ONE STICKY March afternoon, I was invited to attend a neighborhood event: a government-sponsored campaign to persuade Laweyan women to have IUDs inserted—right there on the spot, in a curtained-off room. The New Order regime is well known for its aggressive efforts to promote “family planning” (keluarga berencana, I., usually abbreviated to KB), and such a public event is by no means unusual. By the time I arrived at the “clinic” (which was actually a kampong home) there was already quite a gathering, mostly of the less-affluent women from the kampongs. To what extent they had been pressured to...

  14. NOTES (pp. 255-280)
  15. GLOSSARY (pp. 281-282)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 283-294)
  17. INDEX (pp. 295-301)
  18. Back Matter (pp. 302-302)