Northwestern Events Calendar

Mar
4
2020

"Before the Eyes of God": Transness and the Aesthetics of Praying among Muslim Warias in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

When: Wednesday, March 4, 2020
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM  

Where: 1800 Sherman Avenue, 3rd Floor, Evanston, IL 60201 map it

Audience: Graduate Students

Contact: Elizabeth Morrissey  

Group: Equality Development and Globalization Studies (EDGS)

Category: Lectures & Meetings

Description:

EDGS Graduate Lecture Series

Bahram Naderil, Anthropology

Many warias (transgender women) in Indonesia identify as Muslims. They practice sholat/shalat (praying) in ways that disrupt and challenge the prevailing assumption of praying as a normatively (cis)gendered concept within Indonesian Islam. How do warias understand this intricate relationship between religion and gender, and how do they pray? In this paper, I address these questions through an ethnographic study of Muslim warias in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. From my fieldwork, I learn that many warias speak of praying in terms of what I’d like to call the aesthetics of praying, or elements of/in a prayer that correspond to aesthetic categories, such as notions of self-purification, self-fashioning, clothing and adornment, and the kind of affective experience these aesthetics mediates for the doer. While some warias do pray using mukenah, a woman’s praying garment, some others still find comfort in praying using a man’s praying outfit, sarung dan peci (a sarong and a praying hat). In the context of Indonesian Islam, praying constitutes a spatio-temporal event where an ephemeral reality is imagined and constructed to facilitate a transcendental connection between humans and God. For most warias, this transcendental ephemeral reality proves to be an important site on which warias’ own conception of gender, and especially of transness, is constantly managed and negotiated through the aesthetic performances of praying. In this sense, praying means more than just fulfilling a religious duty; it means also fashioning oneself—bodily and mentally—as a theologically legitimate gendered being, at once imagining and performing a certain sense of gendered presence before the eyes of God. In this article, I thus speak of praying, in its material and aesthetic embodiments, as a conscious articulation of Indonesian Muslim trans subjectivity that is also, in a way, an affective experiencing of what it means to be both a waria and a Muslim.

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