Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Javanese are Indonesia's largest ethnic group living mostly in the Island of Java. Their subsistence economy greatly depended on a combination of irrigated, wet-rice farming, agriculture, small-scale artisan production, and wage work. Traditional Javanese society was divided into two major classes; the nobility and the peasantry. Expansion of state bureaucracy and partisan government policies of the colonial government consolidated this division by producing the classes of landless laborers and government officials (or prijaji). Many peasants have become prijaji in the post-independence period through education, public service and new economic opportunities.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Asia --Southeast Asia



OWC Code


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Javanese Collection (OE05) features documents, all of them in English, covering a variety of cultural and socioeconomic information. Most of the documents deal with the post 1949 period in which the Javanese, as citizens of the newly founded Indonesian Republic, witnessed political violence and rapid economic transformation.  The place focus is central Java where a group of scholars, sponsored by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, conducted ethnographic research in early 1950s. The outputs of this study included the works of the scholarly couple Hildred and Clifford Geertz, and several other researchers. Major themes covered include kinship and family system (Geertz 1961, no. 20; 1968, no. 32), religion and culture change (Geertz 1960, no. 18; 1975, no. 17), social organization and village life (Jay 1962, no. 2), marketing behavior of peasants (Dewey 1969, no. 2). Together, these studies provide a comprehensive account of Javanese culture and society as observed in the 1950s-1970s.

These earlier studies are supplemented by other documents in the collection which, based on information from 1980s to mid-2000s, examine more specific themes.  Coverage includes family life (Brenner 1988, no. 38), aspects of culture including concepts of self (Errington 1984, no. 45), shame (Keeler 1983, 42), place (Beatty 2002, 39), gender (Asmussen 2004, no. 44) and power (Husken 1991, no. 43).  Other documents in the collection include broad ethnographic descriptions of Javanese culture by an Indonesian anthropologist (Koentjaraningrat 1976, no. 1; 1985, no. 37).

For more detailed information on the context of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Agami Jawi – the Javanese Muslim religion - use "RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS (795)" and/or "THEOLOGICAL SYSTEMS (779)"

Alur Waris – an ancestor-oriented ambilineally kin-group - use "CULT OF THE DEAD (769)" with "KINDREDS AND RAMAGES (612)"

Batih – the nuclear family - use "NUCLEAR FAMILY (594)"

Bidan – nurse with special training in childbirth - use "MEDICAL PERSONNEL (759)"

BUDD - cooperatives - - use "COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION (474)"

Bupati – regent - use "DISTRICTS (634)"

Cantrik - - use "STUDENTS (877)"

Desa – village - use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

Dukun Bayi – midwife -  use "MEDICAL PERSONNEL (759)", with "CHILDBIRTH (844)"

Dukun – a curer - use "SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS (756)"

Heerendiensten – forced corvée services - use "LABOR RELATIONS (466)"

Jihad – Islamic holy war - use "WARFARE (726)"

Kaum – see Modin

Kabupaten – regency - use "DISTRICTS (634)"

Kebatinan -  religious movements - use "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS (668)"

Kentrung – the art of the story-teller - use "VERBAL ARTS (5310)"

Khafdh – celebration of entering adolescence for girls - use "PUBERTY AND INITIATION (881)"

Kijaji – teacher - use "TEACHERS (875)"

Lingsem – shame - use "DOWNWARD MOBILITY (558)" and/or "DRIVES AND EMOTIONS (152)"

Lurah – the village or town head  - use "COMMUNITY HEADS (622)" and/or "TOWNS (632)"

Mejit – a Javanese mosque - use "RELIGIOUS AND EDUCATIONAL STRUCTURES (346)"

Merbot – a janitor in the mosque - use "MAINTENANCE OF NON - DOMESTIC BUILDINGS (358)"

Modin – a religious official - use "PRIESTHOOD (793)"

Mbok Mban – female servants - use "DOMESTIC SERVICE (357)"

Ngedah – a forty-day taboo period following childbirth - use "AVOIDANCE AND TABOO (784)"

Para Bandara – princes of royal blood; the Javanese nobility - use "CLASSES (565)"

Penghulu – the head of a Javanese mosque - use "PRIESTHOOD (793)" with "ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES (647)", depending on context

Pesantren – religious schools or communities where students stay to receive religious or philosophical instruction from their master  - use "CONGREGATIONS (794)",  and/or "RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS (795)" and/or "EDUCATION SYSTEM (871)", depending on context

Princes – administrative heads of each of the four principalities - use "PROVINCES (635)"

Priyayi – Javanese civil servants - use "ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES (647)"

Provincial Governor - use "PROVINCES (635)"

Residency (resident) - use "PROVINCES (635)"

Rukun – the principle of harmony - use "SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND GROUPS (571)" and/or "ETHICS (577)"

Sabin – the cultivation of wet rice - use "CEREAL AGRICULTURE (243)"

Sanak Sederek – kindred - use "KINDREDS AND RAMAGES (612)"

Santri – people with strong Islamic religious orientation - use "CONGREGATIONS (794)"

Sarekat Dagang Islam – a trade organization - use "LABOR ORGANIZATION (467)"

Sekaten – night fair -  use "EXHIBITIONS (543)"

Semedi – meditation - use "REVELATION AND DIVINATION (787)"

Slametan – ceremonial communal meal - use "EATING (264)" and/or "ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796)"

Sodagar – traders or merchants - use "MERCANTILE BUSINESS (441)"

Sunatan – circumcision ceremony for boys - use "PUBERTY AND INITIATION (881)"

Talik – a formula used in obtaining a divorce - use "TERMINATION OF MARRIAGE (586)"

Tedak Siten Ceremony – a celebration of the first contact of the infant with the earth - use "CEREMONIAL DURING INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD (852)"

Umbar Groups – groups of children between the ages of 5 and 12 - use "CHILDHOOD ACTIVITIES (857)"

Volksraad – people's council - use "PARLIAMENT (646)"

Wali – Muslim missionaries - use "MISSIONS (797)"

Wayang – puppet plays - use "DRAMA (536)"

Wedana – district heads - use "DISTRICTS (634)"

Wedono  - see Wedana

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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