Fashion, thresholds, and borders: Indonesia’s policewomen and the matter of skin and clothes

Monika Winarnita, Sharyn Graham Davies, Nicholas Herriman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Since at least the work of van Gennep in the early 1900s, anthropologists have recognised that borders and thresholds are crucial in understanding human behavior and culture. But particularly in the past few decades, the study of borders has moved from the margins of social inquiry to the centre. At the same time, fashion (Entwistle), including clothing and skin (Bille), have emerged as crucial to understanding the human condition. In this article, we draw on and expand this literature on borders and fashion to demonstrate that the way Indonesians fashion and display their body reflects larger changes in attitudes about morality and gender. And in this, borders and thresholds are crucial. In order to make this argument, we consider three case studies from Indonesia. First, we discuss the requirement that policewomen submit to a virginity test, which takes the form of a hymen inspection. Then, we look at the successful campaign by policewomen to be able to wear the Islamic veil. Finally, we consider reports of Makassar policewomen who attempt to turn young people into exemplary citizens and traffic 'ambassadors' by using downtown crosswalks as a catwalk. In each of these three cases, fashioned borders and thresholds play prominent roles in determining the expression of morality, particularly in relation to gender roles.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalM/C Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Indonesia
  • gender
  • sexuality / sexual health

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