AAS Annual Meeting

Southeast Asia Session 694

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Session 694: The Legacy of S. Ann Dunham (Soetoro) for Asian Studies

Organizer and Chair: Nancy I. Cooper, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

Stanley Ann Dunham began a lifelong interest in Indonesian crafts, village industries, and the people involved in these livelihoods when she moved with her Javanese husband, Lolo Soetoro, and her son, Barack Obama, by a previous marriage to Jakarta in the late sixties. She later earned a Ph.D in Anthropology, pioneered micro-credit programs as a consultant, and championed the ingenuity and resourcefulness of rural entrepreneurs at a time when non-agricultural occupations such as blacksmithing were overlooked in scholarship infused with modernization theory. Until her book, Surviving against the Odds, was posthumously published in 2009, her contributions remained relatively unsung. This panel recognizes and honors Dunham’s work in Asia, with a focus on Indonesia, through the lenses of Asian Studies, Cultural Anthropology, Gender Studies, Ethnoarchaeology, and Library Science by scholars who knew her or her work well. Topics include social engagement and policy-oriented research, the ethnoarchaeology of iron-working in central Java, the significance of women’s changing roles in modernizing villages, and contributions such as field notes, photographs, and reports to be archived at the Smithsonian Institution. In addition to introductory remarks and four formal presentations, several scholars who personally knew or worked with Dunham, including her Indonesian-born daughter, have been asked to make brief comments from the audience during the discussion period which will be allotted a full 20 minutes.

Women's Changing Roles in Javanese Villages
Alice Dewey, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

In the 1980s Ann Dunham (Soetoro) wrote a long paper (157 double spaced pages) on the gendered division of labor in 25 villages in Java. She examined who had which jobs, played which roles, and why these divisions existed; for example, some work was said to be too difficult or too sacred for women. She analyzed pay scales according to gender, as well as what shifts there had been over time. She pointed out that when a new technology was introduced, it was usually taught to men who were then paid higher wages than the women had received using the older technology. In some cases women took over what had been men’s jobs after men moved to higher paying jobs for which there was a shortage of workers. An example of this was when men who were farmers shifted to blacksmithing in Kajar village, resulting in a corresponding shift on the part of women to fill the vacancies left in agriculture. In most cases these kinds of changes lowered the pay scales of women, thus widening the gender gap with increasing rural development. Although such trends are by now well established, Dunham’s detailed documentation of examples in so many villages is a significant contribution of data supporting similar research. And it is yet another example of her attention to the economic realities of village life and culture in every aspect, motivated by her fervent desire to advance the conditions under which rural people lived.

Scholarship and Social Engagement: S. Ann Dunham (Soetoro) as Indonesianist and Anthropologist
Robert W. Hefner, Boston University, USA

Ann Dunham’s book, Surviving against the Odds, bears witness to her knowledge of and affection for the Southeast Asian nation of Indonesia. The book also speaks legions about Dunham’s self-identification as a cultural anthropologist. In this paper I examine Dunham’s social positioning and engagement as an Asianist and policy-oriented cultural anthropologist. I situate her work within both fields in the 1980s and early 1990s. I pay particular attention to the question of what Dunham’s scholarship suggests about how Indonesian studies and cultural anthropology have changed since the time of her research. The comparison provides insights, both into Dunham as a socially engaged researcher, and into the distinctive professionalization of anthropology and Indonesian studies over the past twenty years.

Ann Dunham (Soetoro) and the Ethnoarchaeology of Iron-Working in Central Java
John N. Miksic, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Ann Dunham’s research was not confined to ethnography. She had a diverse range of interests which extended to archaeology. She utilized historical and archaeological data on blacksmithing, and parts of her dissertation can be read with profit by those with interests in the relationship between artifacts, technology, economics, and society. Since much of this research was not included in the published version of her dissertation, it would be useful to summarize it for the benefit of archaeologists and those with an interest in the range of Ann Dunham’s intellectual pursuits.

The Ann Dunham Papers: a material legacy
Bronwen Solyom, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

Ann Dunham’s legacy includes a significant body of field notes and photographs, created in Indonesia between 1977 and 1994. The papers cover her dissertation research concerning blacksmithing, her work on poverty, women’s and other social issues with various NGOs, and with the Bank Rakyat Indonesia providing micro-loans to small craft-based industries. Her papers also include a number of reports, surveys, articles, statistics and news clippings that she collected, reflecting the same wide scope of activities that came under her sensitive analytical eye. A sampling of the notes and photographs will be shown, and the insights they offer about Dunham’s field methodologies will be examined. The papers are currently being compiled and archivally processed in preparation for their transfer to the Smithsonian National Anthropological Archives.