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Whitman College

Publication Date

Spring 2020

Program Name

Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change


Within the last century, the Toraja regency in South Sulawesi has seen an unprecedented amount of social change. From their beginnings as hierarchical feudalistic culture at the turn of the 20th century to operating one of the largest tourist attractions in Indonesia, their way of life has been turned on its head. Most notably, these changes begin as religious and expand to impact cultural, political and economic life as well. This paper examines those changes from the regions blossoming of the Aluk To Dolo indigenous tradition to the incorporation of Christianity and finally the consolidation and preservation of indigenous beliefs through tourism and homogenization. Major outside catalysts such as the Indonesian government, missionaries, militants, and tourists have forced the Torajan people into a unique position in relation to their own beliefs. This position has indefectibly altered their course of life, but to deny that the Torajan people themselves did not have an active role in their own versions of these alteration is to deny their agency. Moreover, the Torajan people had a purposeful role in altering their ceremonies, religious identity and ways of life to meet these challenges presented from outside forces. Thus, reveling a key aspect of religion in the face of history: change is inevitable and never constant in its practice.


Asian History | Asian Studies | Indigenous Studies | Politics and Social Change | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Religion | Sociology of Religion | South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies


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