Same-sex intimacies in Syariffudin’s Mairil and the queering of authenticity
Abstract The rise in LGBT- themed novels in Indonesia over the last decade demonstrates the sea-change in social attitudes and the public presence of sexual and gender minorities in Indonesia. The genre emerges from the popularity of sexually-charged novels by female authors like Ayu Utami and Djenar Maesa Ayu. However, many novels were criticised for the supposed westernisation of Indonesian culture that threatens the national identity and moral disposition of its readers. This article explores the underlying themes of these criticisms—nationhood, cultural authenticity, and morality—and juxtaposes them with the claims of cultural authenticity and legitimacy made by gay and lesbi Indonesians. Representations of “traditional” homoeroticisms in the novelMairil by Syarifuddin bring these lines of arguments together and synthesise a discursive space where cultural and national authenticities are “queered.” It is my contention that religious and traditional elements which foster same-sex practices offer a key to queer legitimacy for Indonesian sexual minorities.
Keywords: contemporary Indonesian fiction, homosexuality, representations of Islamic boarding schools.
Alicia Izharuddin is a PhD candidate in Gender Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She is also a writer and columnist of articles on politics and gender in Malaysia.