The Sexuality Construction of the Main Character, Puang Saidi, as a Bissu in Pepi Al-Bayqunie’s Calabai: Perempuan Dalam Tubuh Lelaki (2016) - A Queer Analysis

Agnes Setyowati Hariningsih


This article will mainly focus on how the main character’s sexuality is constructed as a bissu, the gender-neutral identity considered as a sacred individual figure in the Bugis tradition in Pepi Al-Bayqunie’s novel Calabai: Perempuan Dalam Tubuh Lelaki (2016). Puang Saidi, the main character, is a calabai, a person whose effeminate soul is ‘trapped’ in a man’s body, who is destined to become a bissu. Using descriptive analysis and queer theory suggested by Judith Butler that gender is performative rather than ‘essential’, this study aims to elaborate how Puang Saidi’s sexuality is socially and culturally constituted. In queer study, one’s complex sexuality and subjectivity are critically discussed along with its relation to contemporary culture. Additionally, to become a sacred bissu, he must suppress his sexual desire and leave the worldliness to dedicate his life to help God keep the nature balanced. By applying Cultural Studies perspective, the research finding reveals that besides being socially and culturally constructed, Puang Saidi’s sexuality as well as subjectivity is also negotiated within cultural hegemony. Finally, we would argue that Puang Saidi performs a quite complex sexuality. In addition, his subjectivity as a ‘Muslim’ bissu suggests that cultural power also plays a role in constructing his identity.


Bissu; Sexuality; Literature; Queer Theory

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