‘To Take Each Other’ : Bugis Practices of Gender, Sexuality and Marriage




Idrus, Nurul Ilmi

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This thesis is an ethnography of Bugis marriage. It is concerned with aspects of gender, sexuality and marriage in a bilateral, highly competitive, hierarchical society. ¶ I examine the fundamental concept of siri’ in relation to gender socialisation, courtship, the importance of kinship and status in marriage, how sexuality is regulated between the sexes, sex within marriage, and the dynamics of marriage, divorce, and reconciliation. The analysis considers how Islam combines with local custom (adat) in everyday practices, and how Bugis cultural specificities are affected within the national ideology of contemporary Indonesia. ¶ This ethnography explores an interpretation of Bugis social and sexual experience through examination of the construction of gender identities and how they are manifested in marriage. The thesis explores the complementarity of gender for the Bugis. Despite the ideal of feminine passivity, I demonstrate that women exercise agency in a number of circumstances, including how they manage the sexuality of their husbands, defending siri’, the arrangement of marriage, remarrying, money management, divorce, and violent situations. I also examine the practices of illegal marriage (kawin liar) and illegal divorce (cerai liar) at local and personal levels. I analyse local and national debates on the legitimation of what is popularly known in Indonesia as ‘marriage based on religion’ (nikah secara agama) as part of the examination of Bugis marriage and marital relations. ¶ My thesis contributes to the understanding of Bugis notions of sexuality, gender and social location, and how these interact with siri’. I explore how and why violence occurs within marriage. I use a combination of informal interviews, participant observation and focus group discussions as well textual analysis of traditional manuscripts and incorporation of oral traditions.



ethnography, Bugis marriage, gender, sexuality, Indonesia, South Sulawesi, Islam, adat, siri', domestic violence, marital relations




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