In Central Java, there are a number of pilgrimage sites that are visited by pilgrims of both sexes either to communicate with each other sexually or – insofar as it concerns men – to have sexual contacts with prostitutes. The pilgrims are confident in both cases that the sexual act consummated on site can help them redeem the actual goals of their pilgrimage, namely health, wealth and happiness. Central to the legitimation of “ritual seks” are local legends that tell of exceptional love couples in the historical past. Pilgrims try to reenact the behavior of these sacralized lovers mimetically in order to accommodate some of the spiritual power they embody. The development of "ritual seks" into a mass phenomenon that has only emerged over the last twenty to thirty years is in clear contradiction to the frequently diagnosed Islamization of Indonesian society, including its sexual norms and moral values. This paper aims at examining these rituals not only in terms of the religious dynamics to which they paradigmatically refer but also in regard to gender relations which are performatively enacted with “ritual seks” at pilgrimage sites.
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session
Associate Professor, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Frankfurt University, Germany
Volker Gottowik is Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Frankfurt University, Germany. He edited "Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia" (AUP 2014) and published widely on interethnic and interreligious relations in Central Indonesia (Java, Bali, Lombok). With this presentation, he would like to introduce his new research project on heterodoxan and Islam in Java.