Universitas Indonesia Conferences, 7th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

Font Size: 
Dialogical Politics: Gendered Subjectivities and Public Speaking in West Timor
Rafadi Hakim

Building: Soegondo Building
Room: 522
Date: 2019-07-25 03:00 PM – 04:30 PM
Last modified: 2019-06-21


Among political anthropology’s long-standing insights, Indonesianist anthropology has contributed to how power is performatively constituted: the “state,” for instance, derives its ritual authority from monological spectacles (Geertz 1980; see also Errington 2000; Keane 2003).  This monological performativity of politics, however, could be further examined by asking how politics operate dialogically (cf Bakhtin 1986); that is, by asking how claims to political legitimacy operate by invoking powerful audiences and their potential responses (cf Rutherford 2012). Taking the performance- and spectacle-like qualities of rule as a starting point, this paper suggests that political subjects are contingently differentiated and recognized through the dialogicality of communicative practices. Drawing from feminist insights (e.g. Landes 1998; Spivak 1988), I will pay attention to how gendered political subjects become asymmetrically differentiated from subjects deemed general and universal. In particular, by paying attention to gendered consequences of public speaking in two rural locales in West Timor, I will ask how the subject of the “woman” (perempuan) and the “mother” (ibu/mama) are performatively gendered in public forums (“musyawarah”). I contend that contemporary figures of the Indonesian “mother” and “woman,” which are often conflated, stand in relation to two processes: (1) national imaginings of motherhood as a feminized form of national belonging (Shiraishi 1997; Suryakusuma 2011); and (2) local histories of asymmetrical gender relations (e.g. Kuipers 1986). This paper thus contends that situated notions of governance emerges out of processes that are power-laden and yet persistently dialogical: processes that fragment and splinter notions of belonging as they invoke contingent forms of diversity.