Patriarchy and Puritanism in Southeast Asian Modernity
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/11828
First published on GoeScholar 2014
DORISEA working paper; 8
In the 1980s I drew attention to the relatively balanced gender pattern of precolonial Southeast Asia, and the economic autonomy of its women, as one of the then most distinctive social characteristics of the region. I believe that this position is now accepted, at least by historians. It does however raise another question I have hitherto ducked ‐ what happened in colonial and high modernity, to allow western feminists to think they could help ‘liberate’ their Southeast Asian sisters? This paper asks two central questions: 1) Was the indigenous Southeast Asian response to colonial modernity ineffective (yielding economic innovation to Chinese and others) because of the very poor fit between Southeast Asian balanced gender patterns, with women largely in charge of business, and the exceptional maleness of colonial modernity. 2) If so, was it simply a case of Southeast Asia being a century behind Europe in adjusting to the only kind of capitalist, industrial, urban modernity we know, which was necessarily male‐led? Or could we imagine different modernities, with Southeast Asian gender patterns being able to challenge and change the male‐dominant model we know from Europe?