Tuesday 19th Feb: Novidayanti Hayid and Maria Corral Fernandez

Novidayanti Hayid (University of Sheffield) ‘Waria and Islam in Indonesia: How do Warias negotiate their gender and sexual identity?’

In Indonesia, Warias have been marginalised and stigmatised for years, being labelled abnormal or having an unnatural sexual orientation. The stigmatisation leads to their rejection in society. Many Warias are unacceptable even within their own families (Boellstorff, 2007:89). It is considered that Indonesian social norms and morals are the reasons why they cannot be accepted. In terms of marginalisation of Warias within society, most of them are disenfranchised from public institutions because of their gender identity. For example, most of them leave school, not merely because of lack of economic means, but because of physical and mental violence from classmates.

The Indonesian reformation movement in 1998, and also the massive feminist movement in the West have affected the discourse on freedom and human rights of Warias. Warias are making huge efforts to be accepted and recognised in society through positive achievements in many ways. This achievement leads to ‘greater acceptance from family’ (Boellstorff, 2007:105).

However, when the discourse on homosexuality/transgender comes into the religious domain, especially Islam, Warias and their good deeds or achievements face strong challenges. As the largest religious population in the archipelago, Islam contributes to the shaping of gender and sexual identities through ‘infusing a moral dimension on cultural notions of gender’ (Davies, 2010:106). Fundamentally, Islam ‘prohibits completely and condemns’ same sex sexual intercourse/homosexuality (Kugle, 2010:24). The religion also prohibits the notion of a transvestite; a man or a woman who acts and dresses as the opposite sex. Nevertheless, ‘Islam considers homosexuality to be the result of a choice (Philips, 2002:22).


It must be kept in mind that Islamic religious laws are ‘interpreted and practiced in different ways by Muslims’ from different places and backgrounds around the globe (Nahas, 1998). Although Islamic law on the discourse of homosexuality is considered a rigid law, there is a key argument that there are some spaces for Warias to negotiate their gender and sexual identity within Indonesian Muslim communities through negotiating the identity with the state ideology, the concept of shame and Islamic ideology.

Research Questions

The main research question to be addressed is how do Warias negotiate their gender and sexual identity? It is important that even though Islam has unequivocal influence in terms of gender norms, the existence of Warias cannot be ignored in society.

Maria Corral Fernandez (University of Sussex), ‘Palestinian queers in Israel/Palestine: political concerns and potential challenges to the status quo’


The Agambenian theory of the state of exception and Foucauldian insights about the connections between sexuality and racism are brought together to reflect with Palestinian queers who live in Israel/Palestine on their articulations of political concerns and the potential challenges that they could be posing to the status quo. In contemporary political dialogues there is a need to take into account queer contributions to debates about the relations between non-normative sexualities and state racism. In the context of Israel/Palestine those contributions become more urgent in light of the recent attempts to portray Israel as a ‘gay haven’ in the Middle East while concealing the oppressive policies and practices against the Palestinian population.

In the last years, some Palestinian queer groups have emerged in Israel/Palestine and more recently scholars have started to draw attention to them. Among the most internationally widespread political actions that some Palestinian queers are embracing are the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights (BDS) and ‘pinkwatching’ activities that denounce the Israeli Public Relations pinkwashing campaign. These are some of the strategies pursued by Palestinian queers, but they are in no way exhaustive of their responses to power configurations. Their exposure to partial sovereignties and their subjection to spatial and temporal exceptions problematise representational analyses of their politics.

I will explore some of the fragments produced after fieldwork conducted in the summer of 2012. The variegated and changing political concerns of Palestinian queers are articulated not only in terms of life but also in terms of sexuality. If the bare life of Palestinians is per se political, the regime of sexuality as both a source and a product of power relations becomes another site for contestation.


María Corral Fernández recently completed the MA in Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation 2011-2012 at the University of Sussex. Her research interests include power relations, social struggles, queer theory and the ecological and social implications of development interventions in  the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and Lusophone and Spanish speaking countries.


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