Power and Difference: Gender in Island Southeast Asia
Stanford University Press
Jane Monnig Atkinson
Although the societies of island Southeast Asia(Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, plus Brunei and Singapore) are known for their egalitarian relations between men and women, subtle differences in power and status do exist. These differences are often difficult to conceptualize, and, consequently, the theoretical issues posed by such relatively egalitarian gender systems have been largely unexamined in Western scholarship, even thought these issues are of great importance to feminists and others interested in culture and power. This book is about difference and power as they relate to men and women in island Southeast Asia. It examines how differences between 'male' and 'female' (as gendered concepts of the person) and between men and women (as living beings engaged in activities) are constituted there in assumptions and through practices, and how power is envisioned and distributed among men and women. The book begins with a substantial theoretical essay on gender, power, and the body, which is followed by eleven studies of aspects of gender in various parts of island Southeast Asia. Through the intertwined perspectives of anthropological and feminist studies, the volume recasts old analytic puzzles in innovative ways, advances recognition of new puzzles, and contributes to a multidisciplinary understanding of the sociocultural dimensions of gender and related systems of 'person classification'.