Post B: In Conversation with Reza Ariz, SUB > KUL

“We don’t do it because we hate smokers, we do it because we love them” – Rico, Vital Strategies briefing, Day One.

Our collaboration with Vital Strategies and the local government of Banjarmasin placed an important emphasis on the fight against tobacco as one fought against policy, industry, and public education, rather than individual smokers themselves.

On my flight from Surabaya to Kuala Lumpur, I sat beside Reza Ariz, a 41-year-old Bandung-born office-worker, now relocated to Kuala Lumpur. Reza was visiting Java for a friends’ wedding and a short trip to Ijen. After hearing a bit about our Banjarmasin projects, he recounts the wedding reception, its platters of food, drink, and among them — a small cup filled with complimentary cigarettes. He pulls out his phone to show me a photograph of the hilarious spread, and tells me how when confronted, the groom shrugs it off as something his parents insisted was customary.

IMG_0565Cigarettes at the wedding reception (Ariz, 2018)

Reza himself was once a smoker. He tells me about how — typical of many young Indonesian males — he and his school friends began smoking socially at around age 14 and 15 (Ng et al, 2007).  From a pack-a-day habit, he tells me his addiction changed dramatically after relocating to KL, where the average annual consumption of tobacco is 583.67 cigarettes per person, a great deal less than Indonesia’s 1322.3 (The Tobacco Atlas, 2014). Reza tells me the most influential factors to his smoking habits came from changes in social circles, and office environments. He tells me quitting his habit has helped him discover running, hiking, and he’s now encouraging his father and brothers to follow suit.

We reflected on both our visits to Ijen crater, and Reza tells me that as he wheezed up the mountain, he saw miners carrying 90kg of sulphur up the rocky cliff, with cigarettes in top pocket, eager to join their friends for a break. It reaffirmed many of the observations we made on our first day mapping in Banjarmasin, where the prevalence of tobacco consumption, and few bans on smoking in public and indoor spaces mean cigarettes seem a concurrent facet of everyday life, rather than something consumed on a designated ‘smoko’ break — a new phrase that brought great delight to Reza.

Reza’s experiences present a very real, lived perspective to a conversation previously revolved around faceless industry and dense policy. It highlights the unique ways smoking culture affects us both at home, and the places we migrate to, and brings to light the positive impacts anti-tobacco changes can make to the lives of people like Reza.


Reference List

Ariz, R., 2018, Cigarettes at the wedding reception, 18 January 2018

Ng, N., Öhman, A. Weinehall, L. 2007, “If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’ – Indonesian teenage boys’ views about smoking’, Health Education Research, vol.22, no.6, pp. 794-804.

The Tobacco Atlas, 2014, Cigarette Use Globally, The Tobacco Atlas, viewed 24 January 2018, ,<>




Post B: Anti-tobacco Propoganda in Nazi Germany

COLOGNE, GERMANY. 1939 — scientist Franz Müller presents the first epidemiological study linking tobacco use and cancer. Five years later, German scientists Eberhard Schairer and Erich Schöniger at Jena University confirmed this study — convincingly establishing for the first time that cigarette smoking is a direct cause of lung cancer. These findings became the basis for the “first and most broadly-reaching anti-smoking campaign of modern times.” (Hamilton, 2014).

Smoking was discouraged in the workplace, banned in cinemas, and also in schools. Policemen and servicemen could not smoke in uniform, and it was not permitted to sell women cigarettes in cafes and other public places. As well as this, advertising tobacco products was restricted. According to Proctor (2000), “Nazi officials moved aggressively in an all-out campaign against cigarette smoking in which tobacco was proclaimed ‘an enemy of the people,’”. The scope of this can be seen in many of the posters and slogans produced for the campaign, the anti-tobacco journal Reine Luft (Pure Air), for instance, used puns and propaganda to suggest smoking was promoted by the devil (Weindling 1989).


Cartoon From a 1941 Issue of Reine Luft (Pure Air) 1941 (image: AJPH)

This tobacco control approach can be seen as a top-down method, in which the totalitarian National Socialists enforced what they saw as an issue in the best interest of the people. Research into the effects of tobacco were funded by the Institute for the Struggle Against Tobacco, which was founded in 1941 and funded by Hitler’s Reich Chancellery (Hamilton 2014). The campaign can be seen as an interdisciplinary initiative that compounded anti-capitalist propaganda, public health research, and quite often — anti-Semitism. It’s enforcement however, was reportedly inconsistent, where “measures were often not enforced, and cigarettes were actively distributed to ‘deserving’ groups” (Bachinger et al 2009). Later statistics suggest that despite the volume of the lasting effects of the initiative prevented approximately 20,000 German women from lung cancer deaths due to Nazi paternalism, which discouraged women from smoking, often with police force (Proctor 2000).

The Institute for the Struggle Against Tobacco was shut down after the second world war. A decade later, the American Cancer society published findings confirming the link between lung cancer and smoking; as well as the risk of second-hand smoke. Though enterprising, Aboul-Enein (2012) reminds us that these aggressive campaigns were “less concerned with the universal dimensions of public health practices and ethics than they were towards a pursuit of a lifestyle that was worthy of a ‘master race.’”

Reference List

Aboul-Enein, B. 2012, ‘The Anti-tobacco Movement of Nazi Germany: A Historiographical Re-Examination’, Global Journal of Health Education and Promotion, vol. 15.

Bachinger, E. Gilmore, E. Mckee, M. 2001, ‘Tobacco policies in Germany: not as simple as it seems’, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London.

Hamilton, T. B, 2014 ‘The Nazi’s Forgotten Anti-Smoking Campaign’, The Atlantic, July 9, viewed 13th December 2017, <;

Proctor, R. N. 2000, ‘The Nazi War on Cancer’, 2nd edn, Princeton University Press, New Jersey

Reine Luft, 1941, Cartoon From a 1941 Issue of Reine Luft (Pure Air), viewed 14th December 2017, <;

Weindling, P. 1989,‘Health, race, and German politics between National Unification and Nazism, 1870–1945’, Cambridge University Press, New York.


POST D: Bissu – South Sulawesi’s Meta-Gender Half-Gods

POST D map-01

(content warning: homophobia, transphobia, self-harm)

The Buginese language of South Sulawesi offers five terms when referencing sex, gender, and sexuality. These are: makkunrai (“female women”), oroani (“male men”), calalai (“female men”), calabai (“male women”), and bissu (“transgender priests”). Sharyn Graham Davies, an Australian anthropologist and long-time researcher in the fields of gender and sexuality in Indonesia provides these translations but asserts that they are “not exact, but suffice” (Graham 2016). Recognition of non-binary gender is a centuries old Buginese ideology and its role in local tradition has endured years of greater shifts in culture and politics. Throughout these changes, the practice of the Bissu have experienced especially tumultuous times.


Engel, a Bissu in the town Bone (Photo: Riemersma 2015)

Bissu are the venerated fifth gender in Bugis culture. They are often calalai or calabai who train under elder Bissu to learn the traditional mantras and rituals of the practice (Umar 2016). Bissu’s ability to transcend gender are also believed to translate to an ability to transcend mortality, and for centuries have acted as mediators between the people and the divine. One notable Bissu tradition is the dance of the Maggiri, where Bissus attempt to pierce themselves with ceremonial krises (knives), where their inability to draw blood prove their bodies are truly possessed by dewatas (the Gods) (Graham 2004).


A still from a video documenting a Maggiri ceremony carried out by Bissu in Bone. You can watch the full video here (Photo: still from DKB Peringatan Hari Tari Se-Dunia 2016)

Before the integration of the archipelago, Bissu played venerated roles in advising the two ruling kingdoms of South Sulawesi. They lived amongst nobility and were integral parts of social, cultural, and political traditions. In the mid 1960s however, a rise in the Islamic fundamentalist movement of Kahar Muzakar in South Sulawesi saw the mass persecution and disbandment of the Bissu community (Nanda 2014).


Since the 1990s there has been an attempt to revitalise Bissu traditions supported by new regional government policies. They now continue to play a role in local communities by providing blessings at weddings, before harvests, and before Bugis Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Time-honoured rituals have regrettably been radically simplified —occasionally performed exclusively for tourists (Boellstroff 2005) — and rice fields that were once given to the Bissu community as a form of income have been taken away (Latheif 2004).


Though incomplete, these local attempts to rejuvenate gender-diverse identity and tradition exist in stark contrast to the events unfolding in the country’s capital. Just last year, the  Human Rights Watch published a report condemning the rise of anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric as government officials proposed laws threatening freedom of organisation and censorship (Human Rights Watch 2016).  This rhetoric points towards the West as the influence behind LGBTQIA+ rights activism and the destruction of Indonesian society (Topsfield 2017),  though we need only to look at the Bugis to see that celebration of diversity has long been an integral part of Indonesian culture.


Reference List

Boellstorff, T. 2005, ‘The Gay Archipelago: Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia’ 1st edn, Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

Hasyim, W. ‘DKB Peringatan Hari Tari Se-Dunia,’ 2016,  video, viewed 30 November 2017, <;

Graham, S. 2004, ’Hunters, wedding mothers, and androgynous priests: Conceptualising gender among Bugis in South Sulawesi, Indonesia’, The University of Western Australia.

Graham, S. 2016, ‘What we can learn from an Indonesian ethnicity that recognizes five genders’ The Conversation, viewed 30 November 2017, <;.

Human Rights Watch, ‘“These Political Games Ruin Our Lives” Indonesia’s LGBT Community Under Threat’ viewed 30 November 2017, <;.

Lathief, H. 2004, ‘Bissu: pergulatan dan peranannya di masyarakat Bugis’, 1st edn, Desantara, West Java.

Nanda, S. 2014, ‘Gender Diversity: Crosscultural Variations’, 2nd edn, Waveland Press, Illinois.

Riemersma, F. 2015, ‘Indonesia’s transgender priests face uncertain future’, Aljazeera America, viewed 2nd December 2017, <;.

Topsfield, J. 2017, ‘Suspicion that LGBT rights are ‘Western agenda’ fuels Indonesian crackdown’, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 30 November 2017, <;.

Umar, U. 2016,  ‘Beautiful Lives: Priests, Beauticians, and Performance of Islamic Piety in a Non-Gendered Economy in South Sulawesi, Indonesia’, University of California, California.