Women’s Prayer Space: Body and Boundary

By Tutin Aryanti.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Following the Islamic reform movement articulated by Muhammadiyah in the early twentieth century, Masjid Gedhe Kauman of Yogyakarta (Indonesia) has shifted the women’s prayer space from the pawestren, a side room built by the Yogyakarta Islamic Sultanate in 1839, to the rear part of the main hall, behind men’s prayer lines. Despite the less strict spatial segregation, male and female attendees tend to keep themselves apart in and outside of the mosque. Furthermore, women are more engaged with the female Islamic study groups, organized by Aisyiyah (the female wing of Muhammadiyah) and held at the women’s mosques in Kauman village, rather than with the larger Masjid Gedhe. This paper examines the evolving definition of gendered border in the mosque as a response to sexual segregation, which is specifically recommended by the Islamic law. Responding to socio-cultural changes, the gendered boundary in Masjid Gedhe is redefined. This article suggests that the border is neither fixed nor real, and involving bodily matter through Muslim garments and prayer robes and the avoidance of female voice in the public. The goal is to demonstrate the diverse terrain of (architectural) space, with respect to the underlying socio-cultural aspects.

Keywords: Women and Javanese Mosque, Gender and Religious Space, Gendered Boundary, Sexual Segregation in Islamic Architecture

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.177-190. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 12.942MB).

Tutin Aryanti

Ph.D. Candidate, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA

Tutin is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U.S.A.). She is majoring in architectural history of Islamic architecture in Southeast Asia in the 20th–21st century, with a minor in gender in Islamic religious studies. She obtained her Master’s degree in Architectural History, Theory, and Criticism from Institut Teknologi Bandung (Indonesia). Her research interests revolve around Islamic feminism, ethno-religious aspects in the production of space, visual culture, as well as architecture and socio-political spaces. Tutin’s dissertation, entitled “(Un-) Breaking the Wall, Preserving the Barrier: Gender, Space, and Power in Contemporary Mosque Architecture in Java, Indonesia,” investigates the production of gendered space in the mosques of Yogyakarta, Indonesia.