The Materiality and Efficacy of Balinese Letters

Situating Scriptural Practices


Volume Editors: and
The Materiality and Efficacy of Balinese Letters examines traditional uses of writing on the Indonesian island of Bali, focusing on the power attributed to Balinese script.The approach is interdisciplinary and comparative, bringing together insights from anthropological and philological perspectives. Scholars have long recognized a gap between the practices of philological interpretation and those of the Javano-Balinese textual tradition. The question is what impact this gap should have on our conception of ‘the text’. Of what relevance, for example, are the uses to which Balinese script has been put in the context of ceremonial rites? 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 instruments?
Contributors include: Andrea Acri, Helen Creese, Richard Fox, H.I.R. Hinzler, Annette Hornbacher, Thomas M. Hunter and Margaret Wiener.

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Richard Fox, Ph.D. (2002) School of Oriental and African Studies (London), is a member of the Special Research Initiative on Material Text Cultures (SFB 933) at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. His research focuses on religion, media and performance in South and Southeast Asia.

Annette Hornbacher, Ph.D. (1993) Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, is Professor of Anthropology at the Institute für Ethnologie, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. Her ethnographic research has focused on Indonesia, and especially on Bali, where she investigated ritual and theatrical performance as kinaesthetic cosmological knowledge.
List of illustrations

1. Introduction—Balinese Practices of Script and Western Paradigms of Text: An Anthropological Approach to a Philological Topic - Annette Hornbacher
2.The Meaning of Life, or How to Do Things with Letters - Richard Fox
3.‘The World is Full of Letters’: Graphic Ideologies, Graphic Technologies, and Transformative Practice in Bali - Margaret J. Wiener
4.The Body of Letters: Balinese Aksara as an Intersection Between Script, Power and Knowledge - Annette Hornbacher
5.The Medium is the Message: Chirographic Figures in Two Traditions -Thomas M. Hunter
6. Imposition of the Syllabary (mātṛkā/svaravyañjana-nyāsa) in the Javano-Balinese Tradition in the light of South Asian Tantric Sources - Andrea Acri
7. Im-Materiality: Where Have All the Akṣara Gone? - Helen Creese
8. Visible and Invisible Script Used at Consecrations of Buildings in Bali - H.I.R. Hinzler
9. Postscript - Richard Fox

All those interested in textual anthropology, Asian religions, critical theory and cultural studies, as well as philologists, specialists in script and writing, Indonesianists and scholars of Balinese culture and society.
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