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Cannibals and Ghosts: Forms of Capital, Immobility, and Dependence Among Former Javanese Sex Workers in South Bali (Indonesia)

Chapter
Part of the International and Cultural Psychology book series (ICUP, volume 4)

Abstract

The need for more research on contemporary masculinities in Indonesia has long been acknowledged (see for instance Nilan 2010, Men and Masculinities, 14(4), 470–490, 2011). Recent publications have focused specifically on the construction of Indonesian masculinities (Elmhirst. Population, Space and Place, 13, 225–38, 2007; Ford, M., & Lyons L. (Eds.) (2012). Men and masculinities in Southeast Asia. New York: Routledge; Nilan. Indonesia and the Malay World 37(109), 327–44, 2009; Nilan et al. Journal of Health and Development 4(1–4), 209–28, 2008; Noszlopy. Australian Journal of Anthropology 16(2), 79–197, 2005). Masculinity has been explored in studies of youth and sexuality (Beazley 2003) and in studies of non-normative sexualities (Boellstorff, T. (2005). The gay archipelago: Sexuality and nation in Indonesia. Princeton: Princeton University Press; Oetomo, D. (2000). Masculinity in Indonesia: Genders, sexualities and identities in a changing society. In R. Parker, R. Barbosa, & P. Aggleton (Eds.), Framing the sexual subject: The politics of gender, sexuality and power (pp. 46–59). Berkeley: University of California Press). A growing number of works discuss masculinity in relation to violence (Barker, J. (2001). State of fear: Controlling the criminal contagion in Suharto’s New Order’. In B. Anderson (Ed.), Violence and the state in Suharto’s Indonesia (pp. 20–53). New York: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Cornell University; Kristiansen. Sojourn, 18(1), 110–138, 2003) and violent youth subcultures (Nilan. Men and Masculinities, 14(4), 470–490, 2011). This article is intended as a reflection on the construction of a peculiar form of masculine subjectivity that originates in the context of sex work. It focuses on the status of being a former sex worker and the ways masculinity is learned, produced, regulated and critiqued both individually and collectively in a particular context of migration, violence and sex tourism. It is based on participant observation and ethnographic research conducted among a street gang of East Javanese sex workers and former sex workers who cater the homosexual market in South Bali. Understanding male prostitution as sex work better reflects the ways in which men understand their experiences of commercial sexual exchange and interpret their occupation in terms of calculation, opportunities and responsibilities. It also allows to explore the significance of monetized sexual exchange for the ways in which these young men conceive of their sense of self as they attempt to make the difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood. While I do not claim the experiences of a particular group of young men to be representative of all male sex workers (or former sex workers) in South Bali and Indonesia, their accounts of rational work and their narratives about the limits and contradictions of entrepreneurship provide fruitful insights in the under-researched areas of male sex work and current male subjectivity in Indonesia. I use the language of subjectivity in place of identity because it offers a more dynamic perspective of processes of selfhood (see Blackwood, E. (2010). Falling into the Lesbi world. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press). As Sherry Ortner (Anthropological Theory, 5(1), 31–52, 2005) pointed out in her seminal essay about the theoretical and ethnographic implications of the notion of subjectivity through the analysis of work, subjectivity comprises “the ensemble of modes of perception, affect, thought, desire, fear and so forth that animate acting subjects” and “the cultural and social formations that shape, organize and provoke these modes of affect” (Ortner. Anthropological Theory, 5(1), 31, 2005). The narratives of former sex workers demonstrate how these two concur closely in the formation of masculine selves.

Keywords

Gang Member Street Gang Gang Activity Crystal Meth Young Friend 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Umane per la Formazione R. MassaUniversità degli studi di Milano - BicoccaMilanoItaly

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