Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    The architecture of Balinisation: writings on architecture, the villages, and the construction of Balinese cultural identity in the 20th century
    ACHMADI, AMANDA ( 2007-03)
    A number of studies of Bali emerging in the last three decades have come to read Balinese culture as a cultural construct that has been invented and reinvented as a means to legitimate power relations on the island (e.g. Schulte Nordholt 1986, 1996, 1999; Vickers 1990; Picard 1996, 1999). Constructions of 'Balinese culture' have been explored and identified as central projects within the island's internal contestation of dominance as well as within the establishment of colonial and postcolonial orders. Despite this scholarly exploration of the discursive nature of 'authentic Balinese culture', public obsession with a traditional Balinese architecture, conceived as an apolitical, exotic, and pre-existing architectural other, prevails. Architecture has been and continues to be an arena within which the notion of authentic Bali is convincingly authorised by its diverse proponents: the Dutch colonial government, the orientalist scholars, the travellers, the architects, and the local elites. This thesis explores the role of architectural discourses within the construction of identity in 20th century Bali. It investigates the way writings on Bali's architecture and contemporary formations of domestic architecture on the island are implicated by the political imagining of an 'authentic Balinese' cultural identity. Invoking the architecture of Balinisation, this thesis argues that writings and domestic architectural realms are productive fields in which and by which identity and power relations are continuously formulated by those who observe Bali and by the observed 'Balinese' people. The first half of the thesis demonstrates that dominant writings on Bali's architecture, while claiming to produce an account of the island's 'authentic' architecture, have instead configured a preferred architectural otherness of Bali - the so-called traditional Balinese architecture. Embodying certain notions of Balinese cultural othemess, the invented traditional Balinese architecture secures the sovereignty of the other subject positions occupied by those who write about the island. For orientalist scholars and the colonial government an 'ancient Hindu Balinese' civilisation was a strategic contrast to the political Moslem population of the Netherlands East Indies. For modern intellectuals and tourists a 'spiritual and exotic' Bali is the otherness compensating for their longing for a non-modem realm and 'cultural continuity'. For the local elites, a 'traditional' Bali is an enterprise which asserts and maintains their socio-cultural privileges. Investigating the mechanisms of interpretation and representation of 'Balinese architecture', this thesis demonstrates how architecture is incorporated within the formation of a 'Balinese' other and how it subsequently complicates the process. It explores how the writings carry and maintain certain assumptions regarding Bali's cultural otherness and how they perpetuate certain methodologies in framing the island's built environment. Through this process the writings select and frame preferred architectural examples, organise and narrate their assumed coherence and cultural meaning, and eventually display and simulate an imagined traditional Balinese architecture. This process constraints the 20th century interpretation and production of architecture of the island within fixed notions of identity and tradition, excluding the possibility of further imagining and configuring of new architectural formations in dealing with contemporary conditions of Bali. Such a persistent desire for an architectural authenticity eventually displaces the architectural culture of the island's multifaceted local inhabitants from the discourse about the authentic, which rather coincides with the architectural simulacra of the conceived exotic and spiritual Bali: the expatriate houses and the resorts. The second half of the thesis explores empirically the way elements of the island's multifaceted local society diversely engage with the enforcement and consumption of the imagined traditional Balinese architecture. It looks at the cases of Ubud, Legian, and Penglipuran, three customary villages which are commonly introduced in tourism discourses as respectively the 'real', the 'polluted', and the pilot project of 'traditional Balinese village'. Examining contemporary formations of houses in these villages, this thesis interprets the way architectural production accommodates the three villages' unfolding contestations of identity. The experiences of Ubud and Legian bring into view identity formulations that are undertaken by respectively the extravagant and the marginal elements of Bali Majapahit society - the dominant segment of Bali's local inhabitants who link their identity to the legendary Hindu Javanese Majapahit kingdom. The experience of Penglipuran - a member of the minority Bali Aga society that maintains an older interpretation of Hinduism - entails a different architectural development that for a while has been exempted from the authorisation and consumption of traditional Balinese architecture. However, as a pilot project of the 1992 Bali Regional Village Tourism Development, the village has had to appropriate its architectural formation according to the more dominant architectural images of the Bali Majapahit society. Through these two stages of analysis, the thesis re-examines what has been included, excluded, and produced by the Balinisation of architecture in the realms of both writings and domestic architectural sites on the island. Attempting to transcend the debates on cultural and architectural identity in Bali, the thesis offers a rereading of architecture that considers its constructive role within the broader history of 20?1 century Bali. Beyond its well-perceived exotic entity, the thesis argues that architecture in Bali is a site wherein identity can be observed as both a construct and a means of becoming. Through writings on architecture and productions of domestic architecture, 'Balinese culture' is continuously imagined and appropriated by observers of Bali and also by the island's multifaceted local society. Destabilising the canonical conceptions of Bali's otherness and cultural authenticity, domestic architecture offers a space wherein a dynamic imagining of the island's culture and self that oscillates with time can be reclaimed.