Australia Awards in Indonesia

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17 Feb 2016

Rebellion and Restraint: Idealising the Masculine in Indonesian Literature for Young People

Nur Wulan, April 2010
The University of Sydney

This thesis examines forms of ideal manliness in Indonesian literature for young readers. The primary material is a selection of this literature published from the late colonial era to the post-Reformasi period (1919 – 2007). Developed and designed largely following Martin Crotty’s seminal study of Australian middle-class masculinities, the study affirms Crotty’s contention that social and cultural changes affect constructions of masculinity. Significant socio-cultural markers of modern Indonesian history, such as Dutch colonisation, the domination of the Javanese aristocratic class, the rhetoric of Sukarno, the autocracy of Suharto, and the more democratic climate of post-Suharto Indonesia, have had significant impacts on the subtle changes that have occurred in the configurations of ideal Indonesian manliness. During the late colonial period, Western-style forms of masculinity characterised by calculative rationality were furthered in the literature published by the colonial government printer. However the concept of individualism commonly associated with the idea of calculative rationality was not developed. This is consistent with colonial government policies designed to ‘manage’ the native population’s transition to modernity, as well as the exaltation of the cultural values of Javanese aristocratic class, a primary agent of Dutch colonial authority. The Javanese-style masculine norms characterised by restraint have been essential elements of masculinities advanced in this literature from the Japanese occupation period to the post-Suharto era. The furtherance of these less assertive masculinities was somewhat disrupted in the Sukarno era, when the revolutionary spirit was an essential characteristic of the nationalist and anti-imperialist rhetoric of Sukarno’s regime. As these less assertive male norms are prevalent in both state-sponsored and commercial literature, it is possible to argue that forms of masculinity characterised by restraint represent hegemonic masculinities in the period under study. This argument challenges the homogenisation of the concept of hegemonic masculinities, which are frequently associated with active and assertive forms of manliness. 

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