This volume contains a selection from the papers presented at an interdisciplinary symposium on ‘Images and ideas concerning women and the feminine in the Indonesian archipelago’, organized in 1984 by the Werkgroep lndonesische Vrouwenstudies (WIVS), a Dutch interdisciplinary study group on Indonesian women.
In the present volume, now in its second printing, notions about women in Indonesia in past and present are treated in relation to their actual positions. The articles deal with cultural definitions of sex roles and their social implications, and thus link up with the current academic interest in gender studies. The contributions occupy varying positions on an imaginary scale ranging from an approach primarily concerned with underlying cultural principles to one focused on the social context. Some show a clearly ‘culturalist’ approach, dealing with female symbols in Balinese offerings, female figures in Indonesian agricultural myths, and Tolaki views on procreation and production. The contributions on the images of women in Indonesian literature, views on the prostitute in colonial society, and the position of women in marriage in Madura and the Minahasa more or less take an intermediate position. The ‘sociological’ approach may be found in the contributions on the life of the educational pioneer Rahmah EI Yunusiya, on Indonesian-Chinese women, on priyayi women at the Central Javanese courts and in modern Jakarta, and on women’s labor in pre-war and present-day Java. Recurring themes, such as sexual dualism, ‘ibuism’, and the questions of female power and authority, create unity in the diversity of regions and topics represented.