Home Institution

Georgetown University

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Program Name

Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change


Indonesia has a long and rich history of cross-gender performance in which males embody femininity onstage. Until recently, these diverse, locally-specific traditions were a widely accepted cultural practice. However, modern negative associations with the LGBTQ+ community and, by extension, the West, threaten the survival of traditional Indonesian cross-gender dance. By investigating feminine male gender performance in Java, I will uncover how Indonesians draw from localized cultural traditions, as well as globalized practices like Western-style drag, to destabilize restrictive national constructions of gender. I posit that traditional cross-gender dance serves as a culturally- sanctioned outlet for male expressions of femininity that exist outside of both the stigmatized Indonesian category of waria (transgender woman) and Western queerness. However, modern-day acceptance of traditional cross-gender dance is tenuous at best, hinging on the incorporation of humor and an emphasis on local tradition which distances Indonesian cross-gender dance from its Western counterpart, drag.


Asian Studies | Dance | Gender and Sexuality | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Pacific Islands Languages and Societies | Performance Studies | Sociology of Culture


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