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Javanese Unveiling Women: Resistance Against Islamisation And Westernisation
2011-11-08, by Yuyun Kusdianto

Surrounded by the unstoppable movement of Islamic resurgence and purification which is reflected through the changing attitude and mindset of Javanese societal member, the option of some Javanese young women not to wear veil instead of following the mainstream of massive veiling is an interesting cultural phenomenon to study. From the perspective of social and humanities sciences, action and intentionality from the agency to choose their own options which are different from the dominant options set up by the social structure can be seen as an act of resistance. Resistance indicates the existence of hegemonic institutionalisation within society that cause some agencies to resist against the dominant powers.

This research aims at knowing in detail about several factors, including motivation, intention and ideology, that make the Javanese young women resist against using veiling phenomenon in contemporary Java. In addition to that, the research also investigates to what extent the resistance of the agencies cannot be divorced from the cultural battles in the contemporary Java, which includes the disappearance of Javanese ideology, the reemergence of Islam and the gigantism of western ideology.

This research adopts ethnographic method as the strategy of collecting the data as well as the stepping stone of the research analysis. Basically, ethnography suggests a strategy of participant observation to know the minutes and the depth of the research object. Ethnography integrates emic and etic perspectives to gain the depth of analysis as well as to guarantee the research objectivity. The object of this research is Javanese young women who are Moslem and not wearing veil.

There are two interesting findings. First, the motivation not to wear veil is caused by several reasons such as the rhetoric of not being ready to wear veil, social pressure from family, illusion of discrimination, attraction of being western and more importantly, criticism toward veiling misuse done by most of veiling women. All of the factors are bounded through a mode of overt resistance, which means that most of the unveiling women are fully conscious about their option not to wear veil. However, interestingly, they also admit that someday they will wear veil, though they are not sure when it will come. It indicates that their struggles against massive Islamisation in the society is still negotiable. Second, the option to resist against massive veiling among Javanese women provides a unique alternative between Islamisation in one side and westernisation in the other side. The unveiling option can be seen as a bargaining strategy as well as a negotiation capacity from the agency in responding the cultural battles within contemporary Java. The women tend not to follow two dominant mainstreams (Islamisation and westernisation), and they try to show their independence and self-autonomy through their unveiling option. They simply do not want to be trapped by the Westernisation and they also do not want to trap themselves in a strict Islamisation.       

Keywords: resistance, Javanese young women, hegemony, Islamisation, westernisation


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