In Martial Arts and the Body Politic in Indonesia Lee Wilson offers an innovative study of nationalism and the Indonesian state through the ethnography of the martial art of Pencak Silat. Wilson shows how technologies of physical and spiritual warfare such as Pencak Silat have long played a prominent role in Indonesian political society. He demonstrates the importance of these technologies to the display and performance of power, and highlights the limitations of theories of secular modernity for understanding political forms in contemporary Indonesia. He offers a compelling argument for a revisionist account of models of power in Indonesia in which authority is understood as precarious and multiple, and the body is politically charged because of its potential for transformation.
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Biographical Note

Lee Wilson, Ph.D. 2008 (Cambridge) is a research fellow in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland. He has published on political conflict and martial arts, and security, civil militarism, politics and power in Indonesia.

Review Quotes

"Lee Wilson’s excellent new book is carefully crafted, ethnographically rich, historically grounded, politically savvy, and theoretically sophisticated. It provides an interesting, insightful, and important re-visiting of classic debates on Power in Southeast Asia. A must-read." - John Sidel, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

"Abundant historical, ethnographic, and linguistic observations drive theoretical reflection in this innovative perspective on power in Indonesia. Anyone interested in the politics of bodily practice will find much to consider here." - Harri Englund, University of Cambridge

Table of contents

I. From out of the Shadows
II. Bodies of knowledge: the pedagogy of Pencak Silat
III. Blessings, bone setting and the blood of the ancestors
IV. The management of tradition
V. From the Mystical to the Molecular
VI. Sovereign bodies and the practicalities of power


Anthropologists and political scientists interested in Indonesian politics, nationalism and the state, Indonesian martial arts, politics and the body, and theories of modernity and power.


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