This thesis explores gender relations in the island of Rote in Indonesia. It examines Rotenese social organization and the role of women in development. In this case the researcher is of the same culture of the people being studied: the analysis is derived from social science informed by local knowledge.
The thesis argues that gender relations among the Rotenese have a complementary nature. Rotenese society and culture have been subjected to many dualistically inclined interpretations. In this analysis of Rotenese social organization dualism is shown to be fundamental to all aspects of Rotenese life. Gender relations, therefore, are discussed in terms of a binary category. It is impossible to study women in isolation from men because in the Rotenese cultural context they function as a pair. This dualism, which at first sight gives a sense of opposition between male and female, and between ‘outer house’ (male) and ‘inner house’ (female) domains, is revealed on closer examination as a complementary relationship, in which the two halves, men and women, make a complete whole.
The main themes considered in this thesis are as follows:
(i) The political system of Rote from the colonial past to the present is discussed by reference to its dualistic orientation.
(ii) Kinship is examined in terms of male descent and female affiliation. A closer examination of the Rotenese marriage transactions reveals the high status of women.
(iii) The gender division of work in the ‘inner house’ is described in detail as a female domain. It is then shown that there is a blurring of the boundary between the ‘inner house and the ‘outer house’.
(iv) The gender division of work in the ‘outer house’ is described as a male domain, but in response to development, there is an increasing participation of women in this male domain.
(v) The combination of national development and Indonesian nation-building also influences gender relations in Rote, and this is considered together with the role of Rotenese women in development.
Finally, it is stressed that the analyst’s evaluation of male and female contributions to the family is not necessarily the way Rotenese perceive or make sense of their gender relations.
Sociology; Human services; Anthropology; Folklore
Thesis or dissertation
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