Home Institution

Hamilton College

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change


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


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