Gender Pluralism

Southeast Asia Since Early Modern Times

By Michael G. Peletz

© 2009 – Routledge

342 pages

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About the Book

Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2009!

This book examines three big ideas: difference, legitimacy, and pluralism. Of chief concern is how people construe and deal with variation among fellow human beings. Why under certain circumstances do people embrace even sanctify differences, or at least begrudgingly tolerate them, and why in other contexts are people less receptive to difference, sometimes overtly hostile to it and bent on its eradication? What are the cultural and political conditions conducive to the positive valorization and acceptance of difference? And, conversely, what conditions undermine or erode such positive views and acceptance? This book examines pluralism in gendered fields and domains in Southeast Asia since the early modern era, which historians and anthropologists of the region commonly define as the period extending roughly from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments (3)

Note on Spelling, Transliteration, and Names (5)

Chapter 1 -- Introduction (6)

Chapter 2 -- Gender Pluralism and Transgender Practices in Early Modern Times (38)

Some Gendered Themes in the Political Cultures of Pre- and Early Modern States

Transgender Practices and Gender Pluralism


Ngaju Dayak






Chapter 3 -- Temporary Marriage, Connubial Commerce, and Colonial Body Politics (146)

Temporary Marriage

From Temporary Wives to Concubines and Prostitutes

Colonial Body Politics and the Constriction of Pluralism

Concubinage, Prostitution, and "Sworn Sisterhood"

Desires That Dare Not Speak Their Names


Chapter 4 --Transgender Practices, Same-Sex Relations, and Gender Pluralism Since the 1960s (216)

Some Insular Southeast Asian Cases


Ngaju Dayak


The Case of Burma

Deeper into the Labyrinth(s)

Women and Femininity at the Turn of the 21st Century


Chapter 5 -- Gender, Sexuality, and Body Politics at the Turn of the 21st Century (311)

Transgendered Ritualists and Pondan

"Asian Values" and New Types of Criminality

Narratives of "Asian Values" and the Rise of Social Intolerance

New Types of Criminality: Azizah, Anwar, and Beyond

The Pink Triangle, the Urban/Sexual Underground, and the Struggle

for Sexual Equality

Background and Context

The Pink Triangle and the Urban/Sexual Communities It Serves

Official Discourses on Communities in the Urban/Sexual Underground

The Struggle for Sexual Equality

Engaging "Tolerance", Open Secrets, and Governmentality


Epilogue: Asylum, Diaspora, Pluralism (450)

Bibliography (483)

Index (534)

About the Author

Michael G. Peletz is Professor of Anthropology at Emory University. His specialties include social theory, gender, sexuality, Islam, and modernity, particularly in Southeast Asia. He is the author of Islamic Modern: Religious Courts and Cultural Politics in Malaysia (Princeton, 2002), Reason and Passion: Representations of Gender in a Malay Society (California, 1996), A Share of the Harvest: Kinship, Property, and Social History among the Malays of Rembau (California, 1988). He is also the co-editor with Aihwa Ong, of Bewitching Women, Pious Men: Gender and Body Politics in Southeast Asia (California, 1995).

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General