Why Do Balinese Make Offerings?

On Religion, Teleology and Complexity

Richard Fox

This article attempts to answer the question as to why Balinese make offerings. Eschewing an explanation in terms of a unitary religious or cultural belief, it explores the practices surrounding the preparation and dedication of banten (the Balinese term most commonly glossed in English as ‘offerings’), and how these practices embody conflicting articulations of agency, community and the common good. Analysis is directed to highlighting this complexity, while at the same time trying to avoid some of the difficulties and misleading reifications that come with the language of ‘syncretism’, ‘hybridity’, ‘great and little traditions’, and the like.

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Richard Fox

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.