Unpacking intersectionalities: On boundaries and culture in Javanese friendships

Eric Anton Heuser

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Heuser, E.A. (2020) AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies (2020) 6:1, 31-52 doi: 10.5518/AMITY/30

Abstract

In this article I focus on the philosophical ideals behind Javanese friendships as a central form of local sociality. I critically examine the history of friendship within anthropology and argue that a particular historical development of anthropological epistemologies is partly responsible for marginalising social-philosophical friendship historiographies from the Global South. This is followed by an investigation of some of the intersections between certain forms of relationships that are constituent for Javanese friendships, which rest on specific ideals derived from Javanese cultural history. I argue that the intersections between friendship and other social relationships echo particular sociocultural boundaries, which define contemporary friendship practices in Java.

I discuss the meaning and practice of intersectionality in friendships by referring to two ethnographic categories that emerged after I had concluded fieldwork in Java: (1) friendships in patronage systems and exchange contexts; and (2) body practices in male-male friendships. Both cases are linked together through the logic of intersectionality with other social relationships. As highly flexible forms of relatedness, friendships oscillate between different moral-social poles provided by their ‘neighbouring’ relationships, for instance sibling relationships, romantic love, and professional relationships. I conclude by arguing that if we want to understand global friendship cultures on a more comprehensive level, then we need to investigate the local construction and meaning of those intersections that shape the social realities of friendships.

Keywords Friendship; Indonesia; Anthropology; Intersectionality.

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