Caged in on the Outside

Gregory M. Simon

Published by University of Hawaii Press

Published in print July 2014 | ISBN: 9780824838300
Published online November 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780824868413
Caged in on the Outside

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The moral practices and concepts that circulate in Minangkabau society in West Sumatra, Indonesia articulate and help manage tensions between conflicting values and conflicting experiences of selfhood, particularly the tension between social integration and individual autonomy. The book examines these tensions ethnographically in multiple arenas: the structure of the city of Bukittinggi and its economic life, the nature of Minangkabau ethnic identity, the etiquette of everyday interactions, conceptions of the self and its boundaries, hidden spaces of personal identity, and engagements with Islamic rituals and moral conceptions. Applying the lessons of the Minangkabau case more broadly to debates on moral life and subjectivity makes the case that a deep understanding of moral conceptions and practices, including those of Islam, can never be reached simply by delineating their abstract logics or outlining the public messages they send. Instead, we must examine the subtle, sometimes intentionally obscured meanings these conceptions and practices have for the people who live them. Whether in the context of suffering or flourishing, moral subjectivity always confronts the challenge of responding to and managing the enduring tensions of human selves, which necessarily entail bodily, relational, and reflective dimensions.

Keywords: morality; subjectivity; self; Islam; Indonesia; Minangkabau; West Sumatra; autonomy; social integration; identity

Book.  248 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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