09 September 2013
The Idea of Preservation: Thoughts on Balinese Language, Script and Literature
Richard Fox. What is Balinese cultural heritage? And how might written language figure in efforts toward its preservation? This brief talk will outline two rival styles of thinking about Balinese script and writing, with an emphasis on how they interact on the contemporary scene. The first set of ideals about writing are closely tied to a state bureaucratic model of cultural identity and tradition. The second is guided by older sensibilities regarding the nature of life, power and efficacy. In exploring the interaction between these two sets of ideals, special attention will be paid to practices such as elementary school language classes and the recitation of traditional literature, but also the production of protective amulets and chirographic weapons. These remarks are inspired by the recent protests against national curricular reforms that would reduce the number of class hours devoted to the study of regional languages, including Balinese.
He now teaches in the Institut für Ethnologie at the Ruprecht-Karls Universität Heidelberg, where he is also a member of the collaborative research project on Material Text Cultures. Prior to this he has held research and teaching positions at Williams College, the University of Chicago, Universitas Udayana and Harvard University. His primary interests focus on the ethnographic and historical study of religion, media and performance in South and Southeast Asia, with a special emphasis on Indonesia and the wider Malay region. In addition to a monograph on religion and media in contemporary Bali (Brill 2011), and a co-edited volume on entertainment media in Indonesia (Routledge 2007), his most recent publications have appeared in Archipel: Études interdisciplinaires sur le monde insulindien, Modern Asian Studies, theAsian Journal of Communication, Jurnal Kajian Bali, and Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde.