Home Institution

Washington University in St Louis

Publication Date

Fall 2007

Program Name

Indonesia: Balinese Arts & Social Change


The purpose of this study is to understand the practice of ancestor worship among the Bali Aga village of Sukawana and its relation to how its inhabitants trace their origins. When did their ancestors arrive in Sukawana and where did they come from? Did any of their descendents continue to migrate across Indonesia? And how do the Bali Aga practice ancestor reverence through the use of shrines and temples—tangible evidence—in their villages? The responses to these questions provided a platform for comparison to current anthropological, linguistic, and archaeological theories in order to understand how locally constructed truth in Sukawana related to such hypotheses.

With regard to Polynesia, common characteristics between the two regions were identified, particularly with respect to the concept of who their ancestors were and how and if they became deities. Additionally, the Bali Mula practice of wrapping trees and stones was to be investigated as possible evidence of totemic beliefs parallel to those in Polynesia.

This month-long field study was completed while living with a family in Sukawana and interviewing local elders who knew the history of the village and how its traditions, particularly that of the Pura Bale Agung, came into being. General sets of talking points and open-ended questions structured that interviews and cross-checking between informants was used to formulate a solid opinion. In group settings, most data was extracted through observation and subsequent questioning after the event. In most cases photos taken during a ceremony complemented field notes. Children were not included in this study partially because of their ignorance of village history but mainly because of their status as minors. Data was collected from all ages and both sexes across the village, though admittedly more older men were introduced to me by Pak Made Ardana.


Anthropology | Archaeological Anthropology | Linguistic Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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