Art as Politics: Re-Crafting Identities, Tourism, and Power in Tana Toraja, Indonesia

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Art as Politics explores the intersection of art, identity politics, and tourism in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Based on long-term ethnographic research from the 1980s to the present, the book offers a nuanced portrayal of the Sa'dan Toraja, a predominantly Christian minority group in the world's most populous Muslim country. Celebrated in anthropological and tourism literatures for their spectacular traditional houses, sculpted effigies of the dead, and pageantry-filled funeral rituals, the Toraja have entered an era of accelerated engagement with the global economy marked by on-going struggles over identity, religion, and social relations.

In her engaging account, Kathleen Adams chronicles how various Toraja individuals and groups have drawn upon artistically-embellished "traditional" objects­as well as monumental displays, museums, UNESCO ideas about "word heritage," and the World Wide Web­to shore up or realign aspects of a cultural heritage perceived to be under threat. She also considers how outsiders­be they tourists, art collectors, members of rival ethnic groups, or government officials­have appropriated and reframed Toraja art objects for their own purposes. Her account illustrates how art can serve as a catalyst in identity politics, especially in the context of tourism and social upheaval.

Ultimately, this insightful work prompts readers to rethink persistent and pernicious popular assumptions­that tourism invariably brings a loss of agency to local communities or that tourist art is a compromised form of expression. Art as Politics as promises to be a favorite with students and scholars of anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, ethnic relations, art, and Asian studies.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Kathleen M. Adams is professor of anthropology at Loyola University Chicago and adjunct curator at the Field Museum of Natural History.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Carvings, Christianity, and CHiPs     1
Competing Toraja Images of Identity     35
The Carved Tongkonan     73
Mortuary Effigies and Identity Politics     111
Ceremonials, Monumental Displays, and Museumification     139
Toraja Icons on the National and Transnational Stage     167
Carving New Conceptions of Community in an Era of Religious and Ethnic Violence     193
From Toraja Heritage to World Heritage?     209
Notes     217
Glossary     247
References     253
Index     275
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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted October 14, 2009

    Engaging and insightful

    This book is a very good read. The author looks at art in Indonesia and its political aspects. The author also offers engaging reflections on life and research in an rural area of Indonesia. The author focuses especially on a people called the Toraja, who live on Sulawesi island. She writes about the symbols carved on their houses, their carved sculptures of the dead, their rituals and their local museums. She also looks at how tourism has changed their lives, and at how their art is looked at by other Indonesians. If you wondered what it was like to be an anthropologist living Indonesia, what village life is like, or what Indonesian art is all about, this book is for you.

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