Requiem for a Waria

Piety and the Political Potentiality of Ironic Experience

in Social Analysis
Author:
Sylvia Tidey Assistant Professor, University of Virginia, USA st3fx@virginia.edu

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Abstract

This article engages recent queries in anthropology regarding where to find openings for reimagining, recreating, or rearticulating a moral and political otherwise. I suggest we can find such openings in the political potentiality of ironic experiences—intensely unnerving confrontations with the discrepancy between accepted norms and cherished ideals, of which these norms fall short. Through a person-centered account of one of Indonesia's most well-known waria (transgender woman), I demonstrate how an out-of-the-ordinary woman's pursuit of a pious, ordinary life occasions a profound estrangement from common understandings of what it means to be Muslim. This, then, facilitates the possibility of reimaging religious and political orientations despite a national political context of growing incommensurability between Islam and non-heteronormativity.

Contributor Notes

Sylvia Tidey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Global Studies Program at the University of Virginia. Her research projects on corruption and LGBT-related care in Indonesia examine how the normative dimensions of globally circulating ideologies of improvement interact with the ethical complexities of everyday life. Her recently published chapter “Merging Queer Lines and Straight Ties” (Fluid Gender, Fluid Love, 2018) and her article “Keeping the Future at Bay: Waria, Anticipation, and Existential Endings in Bali, Indonesia” (Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, forthcoming) address the construction of ethical being and being-with in the context of family care and expectations. E-mail: st3fx@virginia.edu

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