405 Alumni Bldg.
Area of Interest:
Actor Network Theory and Ontological Politics, History and Memory, Materiality, Religion and Magic, Colonial Societies, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Bali.
Ph.D., 1990, University of Chicago.
Research & Activities:
Broadly speaking, what interests me are the processes of producing shared and conflicting truths and realities at sites of inter(natural-)cultural engagement. Much of my work thus far has attended to colonial situations and problems of translation—of practices of mediation. My theoretical focus conjoins concerns with knowledge, power, and history associated with studies of colonial societies and postcolonial theory with the kind of careful attention to ontology, to the making of truth and reality, found in studies of science and technology. Geographically, I work on matters related to historical and contemporary Indonesia.
In my first book, Visible and Invisible Realms: Power, Magic, and Colonial Conquests, which won the Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing in 1995, I examined historical encounters between representatives of the Dutch colonial state and the paramount kingdom on the island of Bali (in present-day Indonesia) as rendered in colonial archives and in late 20th century Balinese memories and narratives. The book explores differing assumptions about the entities that constitute the world (and some of the practices that produce those entities) and differences in the exercise of power evident both in historical interactions and their narration. It also focuses attention on the relations between power and knowledge that gave some practices, claims, and actors a place in modern frameworks of historical truth both within and beyond contemporary Indonesia, and marginalized or ignored others as scandalous or impossible—such as bullets gifted by spirits or heirloom daggers that caused earthquakes.
My second project, Magic in Translation, focuses on translation as an ontological (as opposed to only linguistic) phenomenon. It concerns the life of the category of magic as a connecting device as it was transported through colonialism to places it never had previously existed, in part through the emerging field of anthropology. I track ways colonial agents deployed such concepts to characterize Indonesian practices and practitioners and follow the unanticipated consequences of colonial and anthropological efforts to establish distinctions between European and native, nature and culture, reason and superstition, fact and fetish. While assertions about ‘native magic’ helped to produce asymmetries, colonial engagements on the ground proved more complicated. Artifacts and agents apparently marginalized as “magic” actually often gained in strength, invading the everyday lives of European residents of the colony and circulating far outside their former networks.
Two other projects concern history and memory in Indonesia. The first addresses the ongoing production and reception of “history” in the form of commemorative activities, public debates, authoritative accounts, casual conversation, and material markers. The second focuses on the material culture of everyday life: the ways people dress and eat, the houses they live in, the things that matter to them speak to the utopian and dystopican dreams associated with colonialism, tourism, nation-building and globalized forms of production and consumption.
Undergraduate courses I teach:
ANTH 375 Memory, Massacres, and Monuments in Southeast Asia
ANTH 469 Anthropology and History
ANTH 297 Directions in Anthropology
ANTH 697 Ethnography and Culture after Empire
Topical graduate seminars (ANTH 897 or 898) I have taught:
Religions as Colonial Formations
The Cultural Politics of Magic
The Politics of Knowledge
Cultures of History
History, Memory, Forgetting
2007 Dangerous Liaisons and Other Tales from the Twilight Zone: Sex, Race, and Sorcery in Colonial Java, Comparative Studies in Society and History 48 (3): 495-526.
2007 The Magical Life of Things, pp. 45-70 in Peter Keurs (ed.) Colonial Collections Revisited. Leiden: CNWS Publications.
2005 Breasts, (Un)dress, and Modernist Desires in the Balinese-Tourist Encounter, p. 61-95 in A. Masquelier (ed.), Dirt, Undress, and Difference: Critical Perspectives on the Body’s Surface, Indiana University Press.
2003 "Hidden Forces: Colonialism and the Politics of Magic in the Netherlands East Indies." in B. Meyer and P. Pels (eds.) Magic and Modernity:Interfaces of Revelation and Concealment, Stanford University Press.
1999 Making Local History in New Order Bali: Public Culture and the Politics of the Past, pp.51-89 in R. Rubinstein and L. Connor (eds.) Staying Local in the Global Village: Bali in the Twentieth Century, University of Hawaii Press.
1995 Doors of Perception: Power and Representation in Bali. Cultural Anthropology 10(4):472-508
1995 Visible and Invisible Realms: Power, Magic, and Colonial Conquest in Bali Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
1994 Object Lessons: Dutch Colonialism and the Looting of Bali. History and Anthropology 6(4):347-370
Affiliated and Emeritus Faculty