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Patriarchal Residues in Indonesia

Pam Nilan-University of Newcastle, dan Argyo Demartoto-Universitas Sebelas Maret.  European Journal of Social Sciences. ISSN 1450-2267 Vol.31 No.2 (2012), pp. 279-293 © EuroJournals Publishing, Inc. 2012

Patriarchal Residues in Indonesia: Respect Accorded Senior Men by Junior Men


Indonesia is undergoing an economic boom, yet gender relations and local systems of authority remain highly patriarchal. This article sheds light on how Indonesian men under the age of 28 explain respect for powerful senior men in their local communities. 25 men from five Indonesian cities – Jakarta, Pekanbaru, Solo, Makassar and Mataram – were interviewed. Taking patriarchy as a point of departure, the data interpretation explores hierarchical relations of seniority and authority between Indonesian men. Bourdieu’s notions of ‘symbolic capital’ and ‘field’ are used to explore the competition over social resources that lies behind the elevation of some senior men. Although the young men are commenting on contemporary male–male relations in Indonesia, the residue of past traditions of hierarchy and patronage still inform notions of honour and respect between men. Such traditional systems of patronage and deference exemplifying patrimonial relations still seem to prevail, even in times of economic growth. The article argues that, depending on the nature of the Indonesian community in question, the powerful senior man might be fearfully respected for his capacity to exercise violence and/or the threat of violence, or be revered and honoured for his capacity to create order and harmony through wise and refined paternalistic guidance.

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