Books

   Entertainment Media in Indonesia     AksaraCover1

1) More Than Words: Transforming Script, Agency and Collective Life in Bali. Single-authored book (Cornell University Press; expected 2018).

More Than Words explores the relationship between writing, agency and collective life on the Indonesian island of Bali. The study is focused on contemporary uses of Balinese script, with a special emphasis on acts of writing employed in rites associated with architecture, healing, sorcery and self-protection. Closely observed accounts of these and related script-related practices provide the foundation for a reappraisal of established approaches to the social uses and consequences of writing, with an eye to wider theoretical debates in the analysis of media and communication. Through its combination of ethnographic analysis and critical reflection the book contributes both to the regional literature on South and Southeast Asian religio-literary traditions, and to the anthropological theorization of writing and language, but also other ‘media’.

2) The Materiality and Efficacy of Balinese Letters: Situating Scriptural Practices. Volume edited with Annette Hornbacher. Leiden: Brill. 2016.

Scholars have long recognized a certain gap between modern western practices of philological interpretation and those of the Javano-Balinese textual tradition. The question is what, if any, impact a recognition of this gap should have on our conception of the text in its relation to the practices that make up day-to-day life. Of what relevance, for example, are the uses to which Balinese script has been put in the context of ceremonial rites? Does it matter that many of the manuscripts on which we work were, and often are, thought to be ‘alive’ by those who have produced and made use of them? What ideas of materiality, power and agency are at work in the production and preservation of palm-leaf manuscripts, inscribed amulets and other script-bearing ritual instruments? In asking these questions we are not simply interested in attending to ‘material’ as an inert substrate for the text and its script—that is, in dealing with such things as palm-leaves, copperplates and the like. Rather the aim of the volume is to examine indigenous ideas of materiality with an eye to their implications for critical scholarship. The chapters collected in the volume were originally presented to an international conference sponsored by the Collaborative Research Initiative on Material Text Cultures and hosted by the University of Heidelberg’s Institut für Ethnologie (Jan 30 to Feb 1, 2014).

3) Critical Reflections on Religion and Media in Contemporary Bali. Single-authored book with accompanying DVD. Numen Book Series: Studies in the History of Religions, 130. Leiden: Brill. 2011. (see extended review essay in Asian Ethnology; also reviewed in  Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 2012, 168(4): 522-3).)

Scholars of religion have always worked closely with media of one kind or another, from sacred books and archaic languages to cassette-sermons and the Internet. Yet comparatively little attention has been paid to the ways we actually use these and other media in the pursuit of historical inquiry. Drawing on ethnographic and archival research conducted on the Indonesian island of Bali, this book offers a critique of the media-related assumptions underpinning fields as diverse in their subject matter and approach as the history of religions, British cultural studies and Old Javanese philology. Its central contention is that more nuanced attention to problems of media will have serious implications for how we think about the study of religions, past and present.

4) Entertainment Media in Indonesia. Volume edited with Mark Hobart. New York and London: Routledge. 2008.

Entertainment media now comprise one of the world’s largest industries, yet they remain one of the least studied aspects of contemporary mass media. Every day hundreds of millions of people watch television programs that might broadly be described as ‘entertainment’, notably in the rapidly developing countries of Asia. However we still have little idea of what drives the production of Asian entertainment television, how audiences engage with television or how political and social élites understand the impact of television on the massive audiences. While India and China have attracted recent media attention, Indonesia has remained largely unnoticed. As Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, is engaged in rapid modernization and the transition to democracy in significant part through the mass media, serious attention is long overdue.  The topics covered include: talent shows, crime and supernatural Reality TV, travel programmes, talent quests and popular music  This book, with contributions from recognized experts on Indonesian media, is therefore of particular importance not just for explaining what is going on in Indonesian popular television, but also for establishing a theoretical framework for the study of entertainment media in other societies. The collection is essential for anyone wishing to know about entertainment media, Asian television and contemporary approaches to the study of Asian mass and popular media.

5) Special issue of the Asian Journal of Communication on Indonesian entertainment media. Edited with Mark Hobart. 2006.

This special edition about contemporary entertainment media in Indonesia consists of four articles. Each focuses on different popular genres of entertainment on television and their associated commentaries, primarily in the print media. The authors examine different aspects of television production which has burgeoned since the economic crisis of the late 1990s. The topics range from popular Indonesian music programmes, through imported genres like talent quests, real-life crime and supernatural reality TV, to travel programmes which represent Indonesia to Indonesians through foreign eyes. The articles all give a sense of the energy, vitality and openness of mass television broadcasting formats, although these are usually portrayed in the mass communications and media studies’ literature as either effectively determined by multinational corporations or else conventional to the point of sterility. As a collection, these pieces, with their stress on television as complex sets of situated practices, offer new ways of approaching one of Asia’s major media industries.

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