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Our Roots, Our Strength: The Jamu Industry, Women's Health and Islam in Contemporary Indonesia

Krier, Sarah Elizabeth (2011) Our Roots, Our Strength: The Jamu Industry, Women's Health and Islam in Contemporary Indonesia. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation demonstrates how discourse surrounding Indonesian herbal indigenous medicine, or jamu, shapes Muslim women's health choices and sexual and gender subjectivities in contemporary Central Java, Indonesia. With jamu being composed mainly of roots from plants, "Our Roots, Our Strength" refers to how jamu creates a space for cultural discourse and practice that enables Muslim women to engage with power in terms of their reproductive and sexual health. Women turn to jamu for their most intimate health needs because, unlike state-supported biomedical campaigns which many women feel are aggressive, political and invasive, jamu: 1) is an informal, grassroots and gendered discourse, 2) supports long-held gender constructions and Indonesian-Islamic belief and medical systems, and 3) supports a holistic view of a woman's health which includes sexuality and pleasure. At the same time, this research reveals the ways in which the jamu industry has made its' wealth off of the creation of women's health needs, particularly in the sale of jamu to "regulate" menstruation and to "satisfy" one's husband through the use of herbal vaginal drying agents, both of which support gender inequality and are assumed biomedically to facilitate infection. While most often criticized as unscientific and dismissed by the formal public health sector, this study points to the need for formal women's healthcare to be invested in understanding the role jamu plays in many women's lives. This study is based on 15 months of ethnographic research including 116 in-depth interviews and participant observation in Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia, focusing on jamu as a primary health resource for Muslim women by investigating the commercial production, distribution and consumption of jamu in small, medium and large industry contexts. Using jamu as a lens through which to examine the interplay of sex, gender, medicine, religion, and capitalism, this study contributes to anthropological scholarship on the jamu industry; the role of gender, sexuality, and Islam in health culture; the need for religious, sexuality and cultural studies in the construction of public health programs and policies; and the diversity of local religious moralities in the Muslim world.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Krier, Sarah
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairScaglion, Richardscaglion@pitt.eduSCAGLION
Committee MemberWeintraub, Andrewanwein@pitt.eduANWEIN
Committee MemberAlter, Josephjsalter@pitt.eduJSALTER
Committee MemberTerry, Marthamaterry@pitt.eduMATERRY
Committee MemberConstable, Nicolencgrad@pitt.eduNCGRAD
Date: 28 September 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 19 July 2011
Approval Date: 28 September 2011
Submission Date: 18 August 2011
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: medical anthropology
Other ID:, etd-08182011-155319
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:00
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:49


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