Javanese Ethnography

Identification. The Javanese are Indonesia’s largest ethnic group and the world’s third-largest Muslim ethnic group, following Arabs and Bengalis. “Wong Djawa” or “Tijang Djawi” are the names that the Javanese use to refer to themselves. The Indonesian term for the Javanese is “Orang Djawa.” The term djawa has been traced to the Sanskrit word yava, “barley, grain.” The name is of great antiquity and appears in Ptolemy’s Geography. Location. The Javanese primarily occupy the provinces of East and Central Java, although there are also some Javanese on other Indonesian islands. Java, one of the  largest islands of Indonesia. The climate is tropical, with a dry season from March to September and a wet season from September to March. Mountains and plateaus are somewhat cooler than the
lowlands. Demnography. The Javanese population was 2 million in 1775. In 1900 the population of the island was 29 million and in 1990 it was estimated to be over 109 million (including the small island of Madura). Jakarta, the capital city, then had a population of about 9.5 million people. Some areas of
Java have close to the highest rural population density in the world: the average density is 1,500 persons per square mile and in some areas it is considerably higher. In 1969 Jay reported a population density of 6,000-8,000 persons per square kilometer in residential areas of rural Modjokuto. Population growth combined with small and fragmented landholdings has produced severe problems of overcrowding and poverty.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Javanese are bilingual. They speak Bahasa Indonesia, the Indonesian  national language, in public and in dealings with other ethnic groups, but at home and among themselves they speak Javanese. The Javanese language belongs to the West Indonesian Branch of the Hesperonesian Subfamily of the Malayo-Polynesian Family. Javanese has a literary history dating back to the eighth century. The language has nine styles of speech, the uses of which are determined by principles of etiquette. There is a trend toward simplification of speech levels.

History and Cultural Relations
Wet-rice agriculture and state organization were present in Java before the eighth century. Indian influence between the eighth and fourteenth centuries produced a number of petty Shaivite/Buddhist kingdoms. The Madjapahit Empire flourished near the present city of Surabaja during the fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries, during which time Indian Muslims and Chinese dominated international trade. When the center of power shifted to port towns during the sixteenth century, Indian and Malay Muslims dominated trade. The aristocracy adopted a form of Islam that had been influenced by south
Indian religious beliefs, and Islam spread.
The Mataram Kingdom rose in the sixteenth century and flourished until the middle of the eighteenth century. First the Portuguese, and later the Dutch, dominated trade during this period. The Dutch East India Company divided Mataram into several vassal states around 1750 and later these states came under the rule of the Dutch colonial government. Except for a brief period of British rule, Java remained
under Dutch rule; it was opened to private Dutch enterprise after 1850. A nationalist movement arose in the early twentieth century and communism was introduced. There was an unsuccessful revolution in the late 1920s. After Japanese occupation during World War II, Indonesia declared its independence. The Dutch transferred sovereignty to Indonesia in 1949 after four years of warfare.

High population density imparts an urban quality to all of Java, including the rural areas. The majority of the population lives in small villages and towns and approximately 25 percent lives in cities. Population is evenly distributed and villages are often separated by no more than a few hundred meters. Villages are never more than 8 kilometers from a town. Although there are a number of towns and cities in
Java, the only cities with true urban and industrial characteristics are Jakarta, Surabaja, and Semarang. Landholdings are small and fragmented. The typical village house is small and rectangular. It is built directly on the ground and has a thatched roof. The inside has earthen floors and its small compartments are divided by movable bamboo panels. House styles are defined by the shape of the roof. Village houses that reflect urban influence have brick walls and tiled roofs. Large open pavilions at
the front are typical of houses of high-ranking administrative officers and members of the nobility.

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Java has a dual economy with industrial and peasant sectors. The Dutch established plantations based on a Western model of business organization. This segment of the economy is now concerned with estate agriculture, mining, and industry. It is highly capitalized
and it produces primarily for export. Wet-rice agriculture is the principal activity of the peasant economy; fishing is important in coastal villages. Animal husbandry is not developed for want of space. A number of dry-season crops are produced for sale, and there are also some small-scale cottage
industries and a local market system. Industrial Arts. Small-scale industries are not well developed
because of problems in capital, distribution, and marketing. Cottage industries in Central Java Province are silver work, batik, handweaving, and the manufacture of native
Trade. There are local markets, each servicing four to five villages throughout rural Java. The retailers are usually women.
Division of Labor. Javanese are primarily farmers, local traders, and skilled artisans. Intermediate trade and small industry are dominated by foreign Asians, and the large plantations and industries are owned by Europeans. In precolonial Java, the population was divided between royalty, with its
court and the nobility, and the peasantry. Two more classes emerged under colonialism and with the development of administrative centers. These classes are landless laborers and government officials, or prijaji. The prijaji are generally urban and there are several statuses. In rural areas farming remains
the predominant occupation. Some people engage in craft specializations and trade but these occupations are usually part-time. The majority of everyone’s time is spent on farming. In rural areas learned professionals such as teachers, spiritual leaders, and puppeteers are usually people from affluent families. These latter occupations have considerable prestige but they are also practiced only part-time. Local and central government officials have the highest prestige.
Land Tenure. Traditionally much of the land was held communally and communities recruited corv~e (unpaid labor) for the king, the nobility, or the colonial government. Even today, communal land is reserved for schools, roads, and cemeteries and for support of the village headman and his staff. The corv~e consisted of a group of villagers (kuli), who constituted the productive labor force of the village.
Communal land was allotted for usufruct as compensation to the kuli. In some places the kuli became a hereditary status included with the inheritance of the land. In addition, many Javanese villages have tracts of communal land allotted to the population for usufruct on a rotating basis. Individual holdings
are small.

Kin Groups and Descent. Descent is bilateral and the basic kin group is the nuclear family (kulawarga). Two kindredlike groups are recognized by the Javanese. One is the golongan, an informal bilateral group whose members usually reside in the same village and who participate together in various ceremonies and celebrations. The alur wars, the second kindredlike group, is a more formal unit involved in caring for the graves of ancestors.
Kinship Terminology. Four principles govern Javanese kinship terminology. First, the system is bilateral; that is, the kin terms are the same whether the link is the father or the mother. The second principle is generational; that is, all the members of each generation are verbally grouped. The third
principle is seniority, a principle that subdivides each generation into junior and senior categories. Finally, the fourth principle is gender. There is a slight distinction made between nuclear-family relatives and others.
Marriage and Family
Marriage. Individuals usually choose their own spouses, although parents sometimes arrange marriages. Marriage is prohibited between members of the nuclear family, half siblings, and second cousins. Several types of marriage are disapproved of but people can avoid the supernatural sanctions associated with them by performing protective rituals. The idea of preferred marriages is not widely known. Marriage formalities include a gift to the bride’s parents from the groom’s relatives, a meeting of the bride’s relatives at her house the night before the ceremony, civil and religious ceremonies and transactions, and a ceremonial meeting of the couple. Divorce is common and is accomplished according to Muslim law. Most marriages are monogamous. Polygyny is practiced
only among the urban lower class, orthodox high-ranking prijaji, and the nobility.
There is no fixed postmarital residence rule, although the ideal is neolocal. Uxorilocal residence is common in southern Central Java Province. High-ranking prijaji and the nobility tend toward residence in either of the parents’ homes. Urban prijaji are neolocal. Domestic Unit. The Javanese term for “household” is somah. Peasants and the average urban prijaji live in monogamous nuclear-family households with an average population of five to six. High-ranking prijaji and the nobility have polygynous uterolocal extended families and are larger. Inheritance. Dwellings and their surrounding garden land are inherited by a married daughter or granddaughter after a period of coresidence. Fruit trees, domestic animals, and cultivable land are inherited equally by all the children, while heirlooms are usually inherited by a son.

Socialization. Children are treated indulgently until the age of two to four when inculcation and discipline begin. The most common methods of discipline are snarling, corporal punishment, comparison to siblings and others, and threat of external disapproval and sanctions. The latter type of discipline encourages children to be fearful and shy around strangers. Mothers are the primary socializing agents, as well as sources of affection and support, while fathers are more distant.
Older siblings often take care of young children. First menstruation for girls is marked simply by a slametan, or communal meal, while for boys circumcision, occurring between the ages of 6 and 12, is an important and dramatic event.

Sociopolitical Organization
Social Organization. Javanese social classes have a long history. During the time of the Mataram Kingdom, peasants were ruled by a landed nobility or gentry representing the king. The king allotted land to some people in an appanage system. Merchants lived in coastal and port towns where international trade was in the hands of Chinese, Indians, and Malays. The port towns were ruled by princes. This pattern prevailed until the colonial period. During that period, in addition
to the peasantry, two new classes arose, nonpeasant laborers and the prijaji. The prijaji, descendants of the precolonial administrative gentry, were “white-collar” workers and civil servants. There was a class of nobles (ndara) who could trace their descent from the rulers of the Mataram
Kingdom. During the twentieth century, there has been a trend toward
an egalitarian social system and a drive to make upward mobility available to all. By the middle of the twentieth century, peasants comprised the largest class and there was a growing class of landless agricultural laborers.

Political Organization. Indonesia is an independent republic and the head of state is President Suharto. The capital of Indonesia is Jakarta and the ministries of the national government
are located there. The ministries have branches at various levels from which they administer services. There are three provinces (propinsi) in Java. In addition, the Special Region of Jogjakarta, or Daerah Istimnewa Jogjakarta, has provincial status. There are five residencies (kar~sidinen) in each province. Each residency contains four or five districts (kaw~danan) and each district has four or five subdistricts
(katjamatan). There are ten to twenty village complexes (kalurahan in Javanese, desa in Indonesian) in each subdistrict. The smallest unit of administration is the dukuhan and each kalurahan contains two to ten of them. Some dukuhan contain a number of smaller villages or hamlets also called desa.
The kalurahan or desa is headed by an official called a lurah and the dukuhan is headed by a kamitua.

Social Control. In rural areas the neighborhood exerts the greatest pressures toward conformity with social values. The strongest sanctions are gossip and shunning. Kin seem to have less force than the neighborhood in exerting social control.
Conflict. Interpersonal conflict, anger, and aggression are repressed or avoided in Javanese society. In Java it is difficult to express differences of opinion. Direct criticism, anger, and annoyance are rarely expressed. The major method of handling interpersonal conflict is by not speaking to one another
(satru). This type of conflict resolution is not surprising in a society that represses anger and expression of true feelings. Concern with maintaining peaceful interactions results in not only the avoidance of conflict and repression of true feelings, but also in the prevalence of conciliatory techniques, particularly in status-bound relationships. One source of antagonism is between adherents of different religious orientations; this is related to class differences, prijaji versus abangan villagers (see under ‘Religious Beliefs”), and has much to do with rapid social change. Religion and Expressive Culture Religious

Beliefs. Virtually all Javanese are Muslims. In reality, the religion of the Javanese is syncretic, with Islam being laid over spiritual and mystical beliefs of Hindu-Buddhist and indigenous origins. The  difference in degree of adherence to the doctrines of Islam constitutes a dichotomy that pervades
Javanese culture. The santri are strict in their adherence to Islam while the abangan are not. This dichotomy has class and political-party implications. The peasant abangan knows the general structure of Islam but does not follow it to the letter. The abangan religion is a blend of indigenous beliefs, Hinduism-Buddhism, and Islam. In addition to Allah, abangan believe in several Hindu deities and numerous spirits that inhabit the environment. Abangan also believe in a form of magical power that is possessed by the dukun, who is a specialist in magical practices, a curer, and/or a sorcerer. The prijaji abangan religious practice is similar to that of the peasant abangan but it is somewhat more sophisticated. It has an elaborate philosophy of fate and is quite mystical. Asceticism and the practice of meditation are characteristic of prijaji abangan religion. Sects under the leadership of gurus
are typical. The santri are present among all social levels but they predominate in the commercial classes. The santri diligently comply with Islamic doctrine. They perform the required prayers five times a day, attend communal prayers at the mosque every Friday, fast during the month of Ramadan
(Pasa), do not eat pork, and make every effort to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once.

Religious Practitioners. There are several types of religious practitioner in Islam. There are sects consisting of a guru or kijaji (teacher) and murid (disciple) dyads that are hierarchically organized. Individual kijaji attract students to their pondoks or pesantren (monasterylike schools) to teach Muslim doctrines and laws. In addition to the dominance of Islam, magic and sorcery are widely practiced among the Javanese. There are many varieties of dukun, each one dealing with specialized kinds of ritual such as agricultural rituals, fertility rituals, etc. Dukun also perform divination and curing.

Ceremonies. The communal meal, the slametan, is central to abangan practice and is sometimes also performed by santri. The function of the slametan is to promote slamet, a state of calmness and serenity. The slametan is performed within a household and it is usually attended by one’s closest
neighbors. Occasions for a slametan include important lifecycle events and certain points in the Muslim ceremonial calendar, otherwise it is performed for the well-being of the village.

Arts. Geertz (1964) describes three art “complexes,” each involving different forms of music, drama, dance, and literature. The Javanese shadow play, the wajang, is known worldwide
and is central to the alus (refined) art complex. The wajang uses puppets to dramatize stories from the Indian epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, or from Java’s precolonial past. Wajang performances are accompanied by gamelan (percussion orchestras), which also have achieved
worldwide fame. Another art form associated with the alus complex is batik textile dyeing. The alus art complex is classical and traditional and is largely the domain of the prijaji. The other two art complexes are more popular, nationally shared, and Western-influenced.

Medicine. Doctors practicing scientific medicine are present and are consulted in Java, especially in urban areas, but curers and diviners continue to be important in all of Javanese culture. In addition to the dukun who perform magic rites, there are many dukun who cure illnesses. These latter dukun include curers who use magic spells, herbalists, midwives, and masseurs. It is said that even urban prijaji who regularly consult medical doctors may also consult dukun for particular illnesses and psychosomatic complaints.

Death and Afterlife. Funerals are held within hours ofdeath and they are attended by neighbors and close relatives who are able to arrive in time. A coffin is built and a grave is dug quickly while a village official performs rituals. A simple ceremony is held at the home of the deceased followed by a
procession to the graveyard and burial. A slametan is held with food provided by neighbors. Javanese funerals are marked with the same emotional restraint that characterizes other social interactions. Graves are visited regularly, especially at the beginning and end of the fasting month, and they
are tended by relatives. The Javanese believe in continuing ties with the dead and especially ties between parents and children. Children hold a number of slarnetans at intervals after death with the last held 1,000 days after the death. There are varying beliefs about life after death, including the standard Islamic concepts of eternal retribution, beliefs in spirits or ghosts who continue to influence events, and belief in reincarnation, the last sternly condemned by the orthodox Muslims.