Ritual and World Change in a Balinese Princedom

by Lene Pedersen

Tags: Anthropology, Ritual Studies Monograph Series

392 pp $45.00

ISBN 978-1-59460-022-7

Ritual and World Change in a Balinese Princedom is an ethnography of a contemporary Balinese princedom as it engages with globally influenced circumstances. A ritual of ancestral deification serves as a vehicle for talking about the Balinese negara (or state), power, subject formation, and local approaches to the changing nation-state. The stage is set in chapter one with a narrative of the large-scale ritual performed by a minor noble house in the highlands of eastern Bali, presented as it unfolds in counterpoint with the national political upheaval surrounding President Suharto's fall from power in 1998. Through the lens of the ritual we observe the deliberate reconstitution of ancient forms of caste hierarchy, from where we go on to look more closely at the ritual's political dimensions, and at how and why the various participants became involved. Two discourses join in a surprising way, as questions posed about modern politics and the broader meaning of the ritual lead back to issues debated at the level of the nature of the Balinese state. In the modern era, where the princedom lacks obvious forms of power to coerce, the question that rises to the fore is "why?". Why do the subjects still follow and work for the princes? This question recurs as subsequent chapters investigate what the ritual reveals about the dynamics of the princedom, why it was significant, and how it relates to other aspects of Balinese culture, society, history, and politics. Ritual and World Change examines local approaches to being princes and princely subjects, but also to being subjects of and agents in the nation-state in times of turmoil.

This book is part of the Ritual Studies Monograph Series, edited by Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew Strathern, Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh.

"An absorbing story about a small kingdom in the mountains of Bali in the process of recreating itself, exploring the contrast between the state as a material reality and as an imagined order created through performance." — J. Stephen Lansing, Professor of Anthropology, University of Arizona and Santa Fe Institute

"A remarkable portrait of a Balinese Princedom, deftly linking political and ritual lives at the local level with influences from the nation state in an era of globalization. The maligya ritual becomes a complex site where readers can negotiate the terrain between scholarly and indigenous claims concerning ritual performance, politics, and the fluctuating face(s) of kingship." — Kaja McGowan, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, Cornell University

"Pederson has produced a compelling account… A key contribution to the regional literature, this book is written well enough to appeal more widely to those interested in ritual and in the intersection of religion and politics." — CHOICE Magazine

"As well as contributing to the general theory of ritual, Pederson's book is of additional value in that she situates Balinese royal ritual in its Southeast Asian and Austronesian context, contributing to a growing body of work concerned with the deconstruction of Bali as a unique and isolated cultural enclave." — Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology

"This lively and highly readable work — free of turgid theoretical jargon — will be very useful to students and teachers… This is a very good, engaging, and humane book which will be widely read and inform debate for some time to come. It is beautifully produced, elegantly written, and includes many excellent photographs." — Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"This is one of the best books on ritual in Bali ever published… [It] is a well-documented and well-written study with a clear and well-organised analysis… Lene Pederson has written a beautiful and accessible book that deserves a wide readership, especially among those with an interest in how kingship and ritual manifest themselves in modern contexts." — Anthropological Forum