IIAS Newsletter 48 Summer 2008

Images of the past and realities of the present: Aceh's Inong Balee

Elsa Clavé-Çelik

In Aceh, women’s involvement in war is a well-known phenomenon. Local oral history traditions, and later, local Indonesian and Acehnese historiography, have helped transmit prominent figures of widowed heroines, such as Laksamana Keumalahayati (c. 1600), Cut Nyak Dhien (1850-1908) or Cut Meutia (1870-1910). But these idealised accounts have been constructed at the expense of the ordinary foot folk, making it difficult for the present generation of Inong Balee1 - women combatants in the province’s most recent conflict - to re-integrate and claim their place in post-conflict Acehnese society.

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