Since living abroad, others’ perceptions of how I look have come to the forefront of my thoughts. Even living Madrid, Spain, it was made very clear to me that I could not pass as a Spaniard: my skin was too light, my hair too blond, my accent not Spanish. Before leaving for Indonesia I considered dying my hair darker in the hopes I would draw less attention and blend in a little more, but decided against it as the persistent sun would undo that effort. However, even if I had darkened my hair, I would still stand out. When we visit places like Tanah Lot, countless locals, as well as other tourists, ask me for photos. When shopping, I have noticed I am helped before others with darker skin, even if they had been shopping before me. I am clearly an “other” here, but in the best possible way, as my skin color allows me many privileges.
I find this glorification of white skin so intriguing as Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch in their recent history, and from what I have read about this period, it was not pleasant for the Indonesians. I did not understand why whiteness, which I see as linked to oppression, is valued here. This question, along with my experiences with locals here, formed the basis for my research project. And because I am a creative writing major, I am expressing my finds in poetry. My research began with observations, interactions I noticed while out touring and while with my Indonesian family in Kerambitan. I wrote down how people reacted to my sunburns and how my two-year-old host-niece did not see a difference between us, and counted how many locals asked me for photos. As I began to notice more, my curiosity expanded beyond just perceptions of whiteness amongst the Balinese to include concepts of beauty and knowledge of colonialism.
Asian Studies | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Pacific Islands Languages and Societies | Poetry | Race and Ethnicity | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Tourism
Doubleday, Eloise, "Perceptions of Whiteness" (2019). Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. 3166.
Asian Studies Commons, Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication Commons, Pacific Islands Languages and Societies Commons, Poetry Commons, Race and Ethnicity Commons, Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies Commons, Tourism Commons