(P10AB) Birthing and Dying in Southeast Asia: Morality, Personhood and Care
Part 1Session 5
Thu 09:00-10:30 K10 | 2.40
Part 2Session 6
Thu 11:00-12:30 K10 | 2.40
- Catherine Smith Macquarie University
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Death rites in “Javanese-Christian Church”, Indonesia
Laras Aridhini Independent scholar
Dying, death and afterlife are interpreted differently in each belief. Javanese Christian Church (JCC) is a denomination of Protestant Church (Gereformeerd) which has different way to serve the
congregation. Gereformeerd is one of the Orthodox Protestant which was formed in 1920 (Kok, 2017: 91), but JCC was formed in 1871 by the idea from Kyai Sadrach (a Javanese evangelist) in Central Java.
Today, there are about 32 classics of JCC spread in Java. JCC provides the death service and rites by the request of the bereaved family.
In this paper I will explore the morality, personhood and spirituality of the death rites in JCC; since the congregation suffering a sickness, dying, into the death. Data for this paper were collected by
participant observation, interview, and literature study. Most of the Javanese consider that the life cycle rituals are important to be held. Death rites aim to comfort the relatives who are left behind (Gadie, 2006); then rituals as a personal need (Green, 2008: 32). The celebration of 3-7-40-100 days of death is an important ritual for Javanese; that Judaism tradition has been hold by the Catholic in Reformed countries (Jupp, 2006: 3), also has been hold by the Javanese Muslim. The identity negotiation between Javanese and Christianity are happened inside JCC (Yuwono, 2016; Pinkanatalini, 2017). The Protestant Ethics refers to Calvinism teaches the congregation to work hard and live frugally (Weber, 2005). “In 80’s we were forbidden to hold the death celebration because it was not important, refers to Zending. But, the Javanese need to hold ritual to accompany someone who is experiencing a life crisis,” (Sektiadi, clergymen of JCC). In Protestant’s teaching, people have no relationship with the dead. After the long debate, JCC has been serves the dying and death worships since
90’s through Visiting Commission and Mourning Commission. Those commissions aim to accompany someone who is experiencing a life crisis, but sometimes also to pray for the spirits of the dead in
End-of-Life Care in Indonesia: Silence, Narrative and Moral Personhood
Annemarie Samuels Leiden University
Hanum Atikasari Leiden University
In our research project ‘Globalizing Palliative Care?’ we ask how the emergence of palliative care – as a professional form of end-of-life care – is folded into ongoing discourses on death and dying and practices of care for people with advanced illness in Indonesia, India and Brazil. Focusing on Indonesia, in this presentation, we will outline our research plans and reflect on how our questions speak to the analysis of silence, narrative and moral personhood at the end of life.
We start by drawing on previous research in Aceh, where death and dying were rarely discussed during the last phase of life, whereas the practice of “narrating the good death” retrospectively played an important role in socially confirming the moral personhood of the deceased. This analysis raises several pressing questions, including: How are discussing and not discussing dying implicated in creating a “good death” in Indonesia? How does the social and moral valuing of silence and narrative impact clinical and family interactions, particularly concerning disclosure and decision-making? And how do practices of care and narratives of moral personhood in advanced illness unfold along lines of class, gender and religion?
We will discuss how these questions inform our proposed research on palliative care broadly, and care trajectories of women with breast and reproductive cancer in Jakarta more particularly. With this research we aim to provide insight into processes of care and (non-)disclosure that are relevant both to the emerging practice of palliative care in Indonesia and to broader theoretical debates on morality, silence and end-of-life care.
Vulnerability, Self-Protection and Belonging: Meanings of “Home” in Childbirth at Myanmar’s margins
Christiane Voßemer University of Vienna
The proposed presentation deals with the role of homebirth in building belonging for newborns and their families in marginalized communities residing in a conflict-shaped borderland of Eastern Myanmar with Thailand. Homebirth remains a common practice in Eastern border states of Myanmar, extending – though less visibly - also to some migrant communities based on the Thai side of the border. The presentation draws on an ethnographic study on conditions, rationalities and concerns associated with homebirth among marginalized women in accessible parts of these borderlands, conducted as a multi-sited actor-oriented research in 2014/15. The presentation explores the role of home in marginalized homebirthing women’s rationalities of childbirth and finds that these often perceive and shape the home as a place and space of belonging and self-protection in non-biomedical senses, addressing different vulnerabilities associated with childbirth:
Women’s birthing arrangements at home are directed towards ensuring encouragement, attentiveness, and support for their struggles as childbearing marginalized mothers. They shape the home space in ways that reinforce community and grant a sense of belonging and hope for their in many ways non-belonging newborns through postpartum ritual and care practices. Though seeking the home as a shelter from birthing environments raising diverse vulnerabilities, marginalized women’s arrangements of home birth also link to hospital environments and often extend aspects of the home-space towards institutional settings in an effort to build continuity of care.
The discussion calls for a broadened perspective on homebirth in public health and development discourses. The latter tend to ban homebirth as a dangerous and inopportune approach, women in the “Global South” are forced to use in the face of remoteness, deprivation, and ignorance. The findings instead suggest that also marginalized women’s choices and arrangements of homebirth can be use- and meaningful responses to disempowering border and birthing regimes, and that home birth may reflect but also counter dynamics of marginalization by supporting - however imperfect – strategies of self-protection and belonging.
Ethical Performances and Moral Becomings: The Politics of Care in Midwifery Clinics in Bali, Indonesia
Molly Fitzpatric University of Zürich
In this paper, I aim to reinvigorate the classic insight from the anthropology of reproduction that childbirth is a key moment of cultural production, by bringing it into conversation with recent anthropological debates on morality and ethics. Drawing on ethnographic research in two ‘natural birth’ clinics in Bali, Indonesia, I highlight the different ways in which the midwives, birthing women, and birth partners I encountered contest, negotiate, and enact dominant Indonesian moralities concerning the relationship between womanhood, motherhood, and citizenship. By imagining ‘natural’ birth as central to creating a peaceful society and as an essentially self-sacrificial act that makes women into ‘good’ mothers, my interlocutors aimed to counter the Indonesian state’s biomedical approach to maternal healthcare. However, my research reveals that both midwives and birthing women were likely to fail in their attempts to provide care or give birth and become mothers in the ways that they themselves had determined as ‘good’. I thereby argue that childbirth in this setting is deeply political and should be seen as a moment of moral becoming that prompts an ethical performance. As I show, these ethical performances, while challenging the moral regime of the state, can themselves reproduce a constricting morality that can be difficult for women to live up to.
Paving the journey towards spirit-hood. Guided mobility and care in Khmu mortuary rites in northern Laos.
Rosalie Stolz Freie Universität Berlin
Mortuary rites among the Khmu in upland northern Laos are an endeavour involving guided mobility and care: whilst the deceased person and her souls need to be cared for, her corpse and souls have to be separated from the living. The souls of the deceased need to find their way to the spirit realm before they are called back to become house spirits. Before the separation between the living and the dead is accomplished, the deceased person is comforted: she is fed, accompanied, called to, given tobacco and gifts of money because only consoled souls are willing to leave their kin behind.
Yet, based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork among the Khmu in northern Laos I argue that a person’s prospects after death depend both on kin relationships and on good fortune in this life. Not all deceased persons will receive the same degree of care: those who do not have enough rice to ‘serve the guests, to serve the helpers’ are ‘buried simply’ (maan pl?h), without any ritual ado with the consequence that they do not become ancestor spirits – rooy ta ya – after death. Not having enough rice to serve is not only a result of laziness in cultivating rice and bad harvests; it is also about participating in work with others and getting support in return.
The proposed talk scrutinises the importance of activating and recognising kin relations and relations of care when it comes to mortuary rites and, ultimately, to paving the deceased’s journey towards spirit-hood or not.
We were all born and we will all die, but processes of birthing and dying show a huge variation across cultures. Empirical studies of beginnings and ends of life in Southeast Asia suggest that the way a person is born and dies is often considered to reflect their moral qualities. Researchers show that during pregnancy and childbirth the moral personhood of the child is often seen to be at stake, while at the same time where and how a woman gives birth can have profound affects for her coming-into-being as a mother in local moral communities and for her relationship to the state (see, e.g. Blackburn 2004; Gammeltoft 2014; Liamputtong et. al. 2004). In the case of dying, scholars show how a ‘good’ death may not only index the moral personhood of the deceased person, but also their transition to, and position in, the afterlife (see, e.g, Samuels in
press; Shohet 2018; Stonington 2012). Moreover, the ethics of birthing and dying may equally impact caregivers. This panel aims to gather scholars working in and on Southeast Asian societies to think through the ethics of birthing and dying together. How are birthing and dying implicated in constructions of moral personhood? How do these culturally specific notions of moral personhood affect practices of caregiving and biomedical interventions at the beginning and end of life? We invite contributions based on empirical research from an interdisciplinary perspective, including (but not limited to) the fields of anthropology, religious studies, history, sociology, gender studies and public health. Panellists are welcome to focus on either birthing or dying, or both. Ultimately, with this panel we aim to provide insight into the cultural dimensions and moralities of care and personhood at these crucial moments in life.