restricted access Gender Pluralism: Muslim Southeast Asia since Early Modern Times

This paper examines three big ideas: difference, legitimacy, and pluralism. Of chief concern is how people construe and deal with variation among fellow human beings. Why under certain circumstances do people embrace or even sanctify differences, or at least begrudgingly tolerate them, and why in other contexts are people less receptive to difference, sometimes overtly hostile to it and bent on its eradication? What are the cultural and political conditions conducive to the positive valorization and acceptance of difference? And, conversely, what conditions undermine or erode such positive views and acceptance? Taking as its point of departure the prevalence of transgendered ritual specialists and the prestige accorded them throughout much of Southeast Asia's history, this paper examines pluralism with respect to gender and sexuality among Southeast Asian Muslims since the early modern era, which historians and anthropologists of the region commonly define as the period extending roughly from the 15th to the 18th centuries