Monash University
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Intersubjective realities: women Dangdut performers and their lived experience in Indramayu and Jakarta, Indonesia

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posted on 2017-05-18, 02:03 authored by Bader, Sandra
This dissertation analyses female dangdut and tarling dangdut performers’ intersubjectivities and their dispositions towards issues of Islam, sexuality and morality in contemporary West Java. I explore performers’ lived embodied experiences of being female dangdut and tarling dangdut singer-dancers and show what these experiences reveal about their dispositions on these very issues. Sexuality, morality and Islam have come to dominate public debate in Java and the sexualised performances of female dangdut performers have played an important role in these debates. Such debates and discourses are often very remote from the performers’ actual perspectives and experiences as singer-dancers. In such debates, female performers and their erotic performances have been mostly subject to conservative moralising discourses, and feminist discourses of exploitation or empowerment. These discourses, but also the existing academic literature on dangdut and its female performers, have neglected the diverse lived embodied experiences of performers and the meanings that they themselves ascribe to their participation in dangdut and tarling dangdut performances. I focus, though not exclusively, on an aspect of dangdut that brings people’s bodies together in particular performance situations that involve bodily movements and interactions in ways that appear highly transgressive to the normative gaze. I have called these situations and interactions nyawer encounters. Nyawer is a Javanese and Sundanese cultural practice usually related to wedding celebrations and circumcisions where money, rice, coins, slices of turmeric and tektek (a roll of betel vine leafs filled with the extracts of a betel nut such as lime and tannin) are thrown on the bridal couple or child. Nyawer reveals the approval and endorsement from the community toward the couple or child. In the context of dangdut performances, nyawer involves handing over or throwing money to the performing singer-dancer. Taking dangdut performances in Jakarta and the villages on Java’s north coast as locations for a situated inquiry, and using existential phenomenology as a guiding research approach, I show that it is necessary to consider the role of embodied cultural knowledge, the importance of the responsiveness of bodies to one another and dangdut’s aesthetics for an understanding of the performers’ participation and engagement in performances, and nyawer encounters in particular. I explore what role the embodied involvement of performers and dancing audience members play for the performers’ lived experiences and how bodily empathy, affect and dangdut’s aesthetics allows an understanding of dangdut’s erotic nature beyond merely moralist conservative and feminist judgments.


Principal supervisor

Julian Millie

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Political and Social Science


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Arts