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Sumarsam; Mark Slobin




In this dissertation, I discuss Muslim women’s Acehnese dance and music practices in three Indonesian cities. I explore how the functions, meanings, and purposes of these practices transform as they engage with each city’s unique sociocultural, religious, political, and economic landscape. In Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province where Acehnese performing arts originate, dance and music were originally practiced as hiburan, entertainment for the practitioners themselves. However, this changed drastically in the post-Tsunami period (post-2004) due to the reopening of society as a result of the end of violent conflict against the central government (1978–2004). Today, Acehnese arts practitioners generally perform dance and music as a form of cultural expression.

The functions of Acehnese dance and music conferred by ethnically Acehnese people and their society today are transformed when Acehnese dance is practiced by Jakarta’s youth and Yogyakarta’s university students. In Jakarta, the Indonesian capital and center of economics, politics, and commercialism in the nation, Acehnese dance and music among Jakarta’s female high school students has turned into a vehicle to build prestige and family pride, and to participate in youth popular culture. In contrast, in Yogyakarta, Acehnese dance and music’s historical engagement with Islam allows women of marriageable age to continue their involvement with the performing arts, where it may otherwise be challenged. Today, both male and female Yogyanese practitioners identify Acehnese dance and music as an extension of their piety, which brings them closer to Islamic ways of living and reminds them of their Muslim identity as they practice the arts.

Throughout the dissertation, one common theme permeating the practice of Acehnese dance and music in its contemporary context is the recent change in the religious climate in Indonesia and its effects on women’s performing arts. As most practitioners of arts in Aceh identify themselves as devout Muslims, they find creative ways to navigate through these changes so they can continue their engagement with the arts while upholding their Muslim faith.



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