"'Our Roots, Our Strength': The Jamu Industry, Women's Health, and Power in Contemporary Java, Indonesia" | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh
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"'Our Roots, Our Strength': The Jamu Industry, Women's Health, and Power in Contemporary Java, Indonesia"

February 29, 2012 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Speaker/Participants: 
Sarah E. Krier (Global Health Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, Case Western Reserve University)

Women's Studies Program

This lecture will explore 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. At the same time, this research demonstrates the ways in which the jamu industry has profited from 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 invest in understanding the role jamu plays in Muslim women’s lives. Research for this paper is based on fifteen months of ethnographic research on the commercial production, distribution, and consumption of jamu in small, medium and large industry contexts on the island of Java.

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