Reading the writings of contemporary Indonesian Muslim women writers: representation, identity and religion of Muslim women in Indonesian fictions
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AbstractIndonesian Muslim women’s identity and subjectivity are not created simply from a single variable rather they are shaped by various discourses that are often competing and paralleling each other. Discourses such as patriarchal discourses circumscribing the social engagement and public life of Muslim women portray them in narrow gendered parameters in which women occupy rather limited public roles. Western colonial discourse often constructed Muslim women as oppressed and backward. Each such discourse indeed denies women’s agency and maturity to form their own definition of identity within the broad Islamic parameters. Rewriting women’s own identities are articulated in various forms from writing to visualisation, from fiction to non fiction. All expressions signify women’s ways to react against the silencing and muteness that have long imposed upon women’s agency. In Indonesian literary culture today, numerous women writers have represented in their writings women’s own ways to look at their own selves. Literary representations become one group among others trying to portray women’s strategies that will give them maximum control over their lives and bodies. Muslim women writers in Indonesia have shown through their representations of Muslim women in their writings that Muslim women in Indonesian settings are capable of undergoing a self-definition process. However, from their writings too, readers are reminded that although most women portrayed are strong and assertive it does not necessarily mean that they are free of oppression. The thesis is about Muslim women and gender-related issues in Indonesia. It focuses on the writings of four contemporary Indonesian Muslim women writers: Titis Basino P I, Ratna Indraswari Ibrahim, Abidah El Kalieqy and Helvy Tiana Rosa, primarily looking at how gender is constructed and in turn constructs the identity, roles and status of Musim women in Indonesia and how such relations are portrayed, covering issues of authenticity, representation and power inextricably intertwined in a variety of aesthetic forms and narrative structures.