Balinese Art, Religion, and Community in the Netherlands

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Since the early twentieth century a substantial body of scholarly work has concerned westerners traveling to Bali and their personal, artistic, spiritual, and political engagements with the Balinese. Many early travelers to Bali were western artists and anthropologists who later helped introduce Bali to the West. These early ethnographic accounts and popular writings about the uniqueness of the island, its peoples, and cultures played a significant role in the establishment of paradisiacal images of an essentially aesthetic and static Balinese culture. In 1937 the Mexican caricaturist José Miguel Covarrubias (1904–1957) wrote, for instance, that “everybody in Bali seems to be an artist. Coolies [sic] and princes, priests and peasants, men and women alike, can dance, play musical instruments, paint, or carve in wood and stone.” Bali’s representation as an artist’s haven and its long history as a tourist destination have helped to construct the island as culturally unique, a kind of “last paradise,” a site of timeless culture, and a place in which heated local debates about practices deemed “non-traditional” have been effectively obscured. The Balinese themselves have often chosen to reflect this image, for a variety of reasons. Following early-twentieth-century popular and ethnographic writings and the subsequent development of the tourist industry, a notion of Balinese identity was conceived in essential terms of nationality, religion, race, and ethnicity—in terms, that is, of an “ultimate essence that transcends historical and cultural boundaries.”
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHistoric Engagements with Occidental Cultures, Religions, Powers
    Editors Anne R Richards & Iraj Omidvar
    Place of PublicationNew York
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd
    ISBN (Print)9781137405012
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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