Academic journal article SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia

Regional Development Programmes and the Life-Dynamics of Tomohonese Women

Academic journal article SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia

Regional Development Programmes and the Life-Dynamics of Tomohonese Women

Article excerpt

In this article we consider local development programmes and their contributions to the life-dynamics of Tomohonese women in a peripheral region of Indonesia. In examining industrialization, tourism, and international labour migration, we will demonstrate how the life-dynamics of Tomohonese women have been intertwined with these development programmes.

"Life-dynamics" here refers to an encompassing concept of lived experiences, reflexive life-strategies, a practical sense of life, and the ways in which patterns of life are generated. Life-dynamics should thus be understood in terms of active and processual changes and reflections rather than just static events or passing phenomena. In this regard, this article employs the term "life course", rather than the more familiar "life cycle", as the latter implies a fixed categorization of the stages through which individuals move in a static social system, whereas the former leads us to more reflexive contextualized biographical patterns in response to active and processual change, which in turn have implications for the extent to which one internalizes the life stages (Cohen 1987, p. 1; George 1993).

We have identified three broad streams of studies on women carried out in non-Western countries over the last three decades. The first tends to emphasize the constraints of overarching structures of socio-economic transition, cultural limitations and patriarchy on women's lives (see, for example, Hunt 1990; Bell 1991; Eviota 1992; Lie 1996). This approach tends to downplay the agency of women and does not really address the theme of women as active players in negotiating and shaping sociocultural and economic structures. The second stream appears to be a critical reaction to the first; it focuses mainly on the theoretical appreciation of non-Western women as "active socio-cultural agents" and specifically presents critical reviews on studies of Southeast Asian women, mainly with regard to gender roles and gender relations (see, for example, Errington 1990; Karim 1995; Van Esterik 1995; Dube 1997). However, these studies tend to theorize women's roles and lives in relation to family, kinship, and work, rather than a detailed interpretation of the subjective experiences of women in their empirical, everyday world. The third stream, largely personal narratives derived from ethnographic fieldwork, provides multi-faceted aspects of non-Western women's socio-economic lives especially elucidating the life-strategies and lived experiences of these women (see, for example, Murray 1991; Wolf 1992; Solvay 1992). In principle this article accommodates the perspectives of the third stream, and thus attempts to interpret the life-dynamics of Tomohonese women in the context of government-directed development interventions by devoting detailed attention to the multifaceted narratives that reflect women's lived experiences.

Data Collection

This study was one element in a wide-ranging programme of doctoral research undertaken by Ye-kyoum Kim on Tomohonese women and development, which was supervised by Victor King. There was a genuinely collaborative engagement in reaching decisions on the fieldwork methods and on the appropriate analytical frameworks which were eventually adopted.

There is a tendency that Western ethnographers concerned with studies of women, especially those who have studied Indonesian women, select certain kinds of community. In these circumstances, peripheral sub-regions such as the district of Minahasa, (2) embracing the sub-district of Tomohon (3) still remain relatively untouched research areas in studies of Indonesian women. The approach that we chose in order to examine the theme of women and development in Tomohon, Minahasa was as follows. First, we wished to undertake research in a small village, in line with our initial anthropological commitments. Yet we then decided that it was unwise to depend only on a single case community study whose findings might be inadequate in explicating multi-faceted instances of women's empirical social world. …

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