Accepted paper:

Familiar bodies: examining gender and kinship through embodiment


Benjamin Hegarty (The University of Melbourne)

Paper short abstract:

This paper draws on ethnographic data from fieldwork with male-bodied transgender people (waria) in Indonesia. I consider the body as a locus for the experience of memory and desire, focusing on ‘the family’ as key site at which the ‘self’ can be understood as intersubjectively constituted.

Paper long abstract:

In my ethnographic research in Indonesia, I explore how male-bodied transgender people (waria) navigate family life, focusing on their experiences of gender, kinship, relatedness and belonging. In this paper I will present possible ways to contemplate the relationship between knowledge and the body, paying particular attention to the materiality of kinship — gendered bodies which are intersubjectively constituted through kin relations. Reflecting on recently collected ethnographic data, I will discuss how the body is a medium through which diverse lived experiences of the family can be understood. Kinship is a classical anthropological concept that is receiving renewed attention. Research in feminist and queer anthropology has challenged the assumption of 'the family' as a universal fact, with many scholars contributing to questions concerning its relationship with gendered embodiment in particular. My paper will build on this literature to consider the following questions: How is the body shaped by kinship? How are the gendered roles that constitute family relations (such as mother, father, daughter, son) experienced, contested, made and unmade through the body? How does the transgender body complicate understandings of kinship and gender? I expand on these questions by reflecting on how waria understandings of kinship are themselves related to the production of gender, contemplating how memory and desire is experienced through the medium of the body.

panel P059
Anthropology through the experience of the physical body