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Author: Thomas Reuter
The House of Our Ancestors is a study of the Mountain Balinese or Bali Aga, an ethnic group with a distinct history and culture who are thought to be the indigenous people of Bali, Indonesia. In popular ideas of Balinese identity, the highland people feature as the conceptual counterpart to the royal houses established in the southern lowlands of the island. Hidden in shadow of this courtly culture, the world of the highland Balinese has been largely ignored even though Bali counts among the most researched localities in the world. This book explores their social organization and status economy from the perspective of an innovative theory of ‘precedence’. Regional domains, villages and origin houses among the Bali Aga are all conceived and ranked in reference to the basic ideas of a sacred origin in the past, and of an order of precedence connecting the past with the present. The analysis of precedence ranking, evident at all levels of Bali Aga social organization, leads to the development of a new theory of status for Austronesian societies that departs radically from the notion of hierarchy as proposed by Louis Dumont in his classic study of the Indian caste system.
Author: Thomas Reuter

Research by anthropologists engaged with the Comparative Austronesia Project (Australian National University) has amassed an enormous data set for ethnological comparison between the religions of Austronesian-speaking societies, a language group to which nearly all Indonesian societies also belong. Comparative analysis reveals that ancestor veneration is a key-shared feature among Austronesian religious cosmologies; a feature that also resonates strongly with the ancestor-focused religions characteristic of East Asia. Characteristically, the religions of Austronesian-speaking societies focus on the core idea of a sacred time and place of ancestral origin and the continuous flow of life that is issuing forth from this source. Present-day individuals connect with the place and time of origin though ritual acts of retracing a historical path of migration to its source. What can this seemingly exotic notion of a flow of life reveal about the human condition writ large? Is it merely a curiosity of the ethnographic record of this region, a traditional religious insight forgotten even by many of the people whose traditional religion this is, but who have come under the influence of so-called world religions? Or is there something of great importance to be learnt from the Austronesian approach to life? Such questions have remained unasked until now, I argue, because a systematic cosmological bias within western thought has largely prevented us from taking Ancestor Religion and other forms of “traditional knowledge” seriously as an alternative truth claim. While I have discussed elsewhere the significance of Ancestor Religion in reference to my own research in highland Bali, I will attempt in this paper to remove this bias by its roots. I do so by contrasting two modes of thought: the “incremental dualism” of precedence characteristic of Austronesian cultures and their Ancestor Religions, and the “transcendental dualism” of mind and matter that has been a central theme within the cultural history of Western European thought. I argue for a deeper appreciation of Ancestor Religion as the oldest and most pervasive of all world religions.

In: Wacana
In: Faith in the Future
Understanding the Revitalization of Religions and Cultural Traditions in Asia
Revitalization of religious and cultural traditions is taking place in nearly all contemporary Asian societies, as is shown in Faith in the Future: Understanding the Revitalization of Religions and Cultural Traditions in Asia. Revitalization is not unique to Asia, it is one of the most significant new global trends in religion and society. While they are a response to globalization and rapid change, revitalization movements are not backward looking but represent a struggle by local people for their right to determine their own future in a changing world, while also reflecting their desire to find an appropriate place and status for themselves within a global context which they take for granted. The volume provides a comparative analysis of the key features and aspirations of revitalization movements and assesses their scope for shaping the future trajectories of societies in all parts of the world.
Author: Thomas Reuter

Abstract

A worldwide resurgence of local ethnic or religious identities has led to numerous conflicts locally, and also globally, since the end of the Cold War. This trend is exemplified by Indonesia, where political liberalisation after 32 years of authoritarian rule have allowed local identities and political aspirations to be expressed more freely and in new ways. In this paper, I look at new social movements that are demanding regional autonomy, more local control of local resources and greater recognition for traditional institutions. Such movements shed light on the challenges faced by the multi-ethnic nation of Indonesia today and, more generally, on shifting local identities in developing nations in a globalising world. An example of regional cultural revival movements in Indonesia is the Ajeg Bali Movement. This movement stems from a growing sense of disenfranchisement and desire for self-empowerment among Hindu Balinese. Contributing factors are political liberalisation and decentralisation, the 'touristification' of local culture, increasing dependence on the global economy, the threat of terrorism after the Bali bomb, the influx of Muslim labour migrants and fears of an Islamisation of the Indonesian state.

In: Asian Journal of Social Science
In: Faith in the Future
In: Faith in the Future
In: Faith in the Future
In: Asian Journal of Social Science