The Gay Archipelago: Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia
Tom Boellstorff
Winner of the 2005 Ruth Benedict Prize, Society for Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists, American Anthropological Association

Paperback | 2005 | ISBN: 9780691123349
304 pp. | 6 x 9 | 6 halftones. 13 line illus. 2 tables. 3 maps.

eBook | ISBN: 9781400844050

Click here for the Indonesian translation of The Gay Archipelago.

The Gay Archipelago is the first book-length exploration of the lives of gay men in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation and home to more Muslims than any other country. Based on a range of field methods, it explores how Indonesian gay and lesbian identities are shaped by nationalism and globalization. Yet the case of gay and lesbian Indonesians also compels us to ask more fundamental questions about how we decide when two things are “the same” or “different.” The book thus examines the possibilities of an “archipelagic” perspective on sameness and difference.

Tom Boellstorff examines the history of homosexuality in Indonesia, and then turns to how gay and lesbian identities are lived in everyday Indonesian life, from questions of love, desire, and romance to the places where gay men and lesbian women meet. He also explores the roles of mass media, the state, and marriage in gay and lesbian identities.

The Gay Archipelago is unusual in taking the whole nation-state of Indonesia as its subject, rather than the ethnic groups usually studied by anthropologists. It is by looking at the nation in cultural terms, not just political terms, that identities like those of gay and lesbian Indonesians become visible and understandable. In doing so, this book addresses questions of sexuality, mass media, nationalism, and modernity with implications throughout Southeast Asia and beyond.


“A pioneering ethnography of the national landscape (read Archipelago), Tom Boellstorff offers a new spin on the local and the global, supplies a refreshing new reading of gay subjectivities, and through metaphor, delivers a richly embroidered, linguistically textualized contribution to the literature on sexuality in one Islamic nation”–Geoffrey C. Gunn, Journal of Contemporary Asia

“A cogent and well-argued examination . . . one that may remain applicable to Indonesian social life for many years.”–Matthew Kennedy, Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide

The Gay Archipelago is an important and timely discussion and analysis of how nation, belonging, desire, subjectivity and geography all intersect in Indonesia. The book provides a truly intimate engagement in the lifeworlds of gay and lesbi folk, and tells us much about how contemporary Indonesian culture is both changed, challenged and transformed through its archipelagic logic.”–Baden Offord, Inside Indonesia

“This book is timely, emphasizing changing forms of social life in an era of globalization. . . . [T]his is a stimulating and challenging book to read.”–Abraham D. Lavender, American Anthropologist

“Boellstorff’s discussion is permeated by a moving sense of validation of the communities he is studying. . . . Anyone with a serious interest in Indonesian culture would do well to seek it out and read it for him or herself.”–Keith Foulcher, Indonesia (read full review)

“[A] fascinating and ambitious study. . . . The Gay Archipelago is a refreshing and brave work that should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in the relationship between human sexuality and cultural interchange beyond the well-trodden path of conventional paradigms.”–Elisabeth Lund Engerbretsen, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute


More Endorsements

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xi
Note on Indonesian Terms and Italicization xv

PART ONE: The Indonesian Subject 1

CHAPTER ONE: Introduction 3
CHAPTER TWO: Historical Temptations 35
CHAPTER THREE: Dubbing Culture 58

PART TWO: Opening to Gay and Lesbi Worlds 89

CHAPTER FOUR: Islands of Desire 91
CHAPTER FIVE: Geographies of Belonging 126
CHAPTER SIX: Practices of Self, Tests of Faith 157

PART THREE: Sexuality and Nation 185

CHAPTER SEVEN: The Postcolonial State and Gay and Lesbi Subjectivities 187
CHAPTER EIGHT: The Gay Archipelago 216

Notes 233
Works Cited 243
Index 267

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