In Focus: Fabricating Power in Twentieth-Century Balinese Textiles

This is the first of two courses that culminate in a Focus Project exhibit and publication in Spring 2018. This course explores textiles produced on the predominantly Hindu island of Bali in the Indonesian archipelago as agentive objects that are worn, traded, collected and exhibited. The cloths form part of a rich South East Asian history of exchange, valued both for how they look and what they do. That is, they possess both physical and symbolic value that is transformed into power through direct contact and/or abstraction as images. Over the past century ‘Balinese textiles’ have become part of a network of relationships between Western expats, anthropologists, collectors, and tourists. The American Museum of Natural History houses textiles collected by the anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson during their fieldwork in Bali (1936-38). By focusing on these objects, we will explore the question “What is a ‘Balinese textile’?” and discuss how cloth from this island forms material and immaterial relationships as part of a global narrative. 3 credits. Satisfies the non-Western requirement.