Inequality, Crisis and Social Change in Indonesia: The Muted Worlds of Bali

Inequality, Crisis and Social Change in Indonesia: The Muted Worlds of Bali

Inequality, Crisis and Social Change in Indonesia: The Muted Worlds of Bali

Inequality, Crisis and Social Change in Indonesia: The Muted Worlds of Bali


Indonesia has experienced a quick succession of new governments and fundamental reforms since the collapse of Suharto's dictatorial regime in 1998. Established patterns in the distribution of wealth, power and knowledge have been disrupted, altered and re-asserted. The contributors to this volume have taken the unique opportunity this upheaval presents to uncover social tensions and fault lines in this society. Focusing in particular on disadvantaged sectors of Balinese society, the contributors describe how the effects of a national economic and political crisis combined with a variety of social aspirations at a grass roots level to elicit shifts in local and regional configurations of power and knowledge. This is the first time that many of them have been able to disseminate their controversial research findings without endangering their informants since the demise of the New Order regime.


Ritual as 'work'

The invisibility of women's socio-economic and religious roles in a changing Balinese society

Ayami Nakatani

The Balinese, perpetually weaving intricate palm-leaf offerings, preparing elaborate ritual meals, decorating all sorts of temples, marching in massive processions, and falling into sudden trances, seem much too busy practicing their religion to think (or worry) very much about it.

(Geertz 1973:176)

One of the long-standing problems of women's work in most parts of the world is its lack of public visibility. Many of women's directly productive activities are not categorized as 'work' in official censuses or researchers' reports, especially when they are performed within or around the home. Women's work such as the preparation of food for sale, handicraft production including embroidery, weaving, and knitting, or the rearing of small livestock, is more likely to be thought of as 'nonwork' or as part of their domestic responsibilities, both by researchers and the women themselves (Boserup 1970; Moir 1980; Rogers 1980; Mies 1982; Pittin 1987; Moore 1988). This issue is, of course, closely connected with a general understanding on both sides that women's daily labour for the household deserves less social recognition than male activities. a somewhat inherent lack of visibility is thus further exacerbated, broadened and institutionalized by a social act of maintaining silence on the topic of women's labour. in this chapter, I shall examine and attempt to address this problem of invisibility and silence in relation to the changing status of rural Balinese women and their work, particularly their ritual work.

At least in Marxist-feminist writing and the so-called 'women-in-development' literature, a considerable degree of scholarly attention has been given to the investigation of the spheres of reproduction and intrahousehold dynamics as important determinants of women's entry into paid employment (Kuhn and Wolpe 1978; Young et al. 1991). With regard to the societies of Indonesia, a good number of empirical studies reveal that-in their income generating activities both inside and outside

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