chapter  2
64 Pages

Gender Pluralism and Transgender Practices in Early Modern Times

Scholars engaged in research on Southeast Asia have frequently commented on the numerous similarities-in linguistic structures, dietary habits, household design, religious beliefs and practices, and patterns of kinship/gender, sexuality, and socio-political organization-that have long underlain the striking diversity of the region (Murdock 1960, Reid 1988, 1993b, Higham 1989, Bellwood 1997, Wolters 1999, Day 2002, B. Andaya 2006), a region sometimes characterized as “at once territorially porous, internally diverse, and inherently hybrid” (Steedly 1999a:13). Some of the commonalities that underlie the porousness, diversity, and hybridity at issue may be attributed to the Austronesian ancestry shared by many inhabitants in the area.1 Others illustrate convergent adaptations to broadly analogous constellations of climatic, geographic, and ecological features that have shaped lives and livelihoods throughout the region for many millennia. Still other commonalities attest to other variables: the geographically widespread impact of cultural and political traditions introduced into coastal communities and royal courts of Southeast Asia by merchants, religious scholars, and others from India, China, the Middle East, and elsewhere during pre-and early modern times; the commercial and other economic developments stimulated by these and attendant processes; or some combination of these dynamics (Reid 1988:1-10 et passim; cf. Johnson et al. 2000).