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Modern Rites/Timeless Demon: Exorcising Kala in Contemporary Java

Modern Rites/Timeless Demon: Exorcising Kala in Contemporary Java

An illustrated lecture by anthropologist Nancy I. Cooper. Photo of offering at ruwatan ritual.

Thursday, November 04, 2004
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

In the last few decades, the Javanese preventive 'exorcism', ruwatan, has changed from a semi-private family ritual to a mass-advertised public event.  It is now accessible to a broader range of individuals, including Chinese-Indonesians and those who could not previously afford to hire a ritual practitioner, much less the musicians and gamelan ensemble that often accompany the ritual.  In a ruwatan massal (mass exorcism) all these expenses can be pooled and paid for with the combined minimal fees of dozens of participants who sign up through newspaper ads.  Although sometimes said to symbolize 'time', 'Kala,' an indigenous appropriation of a Hindu demon, appears timeless in view of unprecedented exposure in contemporary times.  The presentation will include slides and the speaker's ethnographic observations of mass ruwatan(s) in 1990 and 1996 in Yogyakarta.


Nancy I. Cooper, a social-cultural anthropologist, is teaching "Introduction to Southeast Asian Studies" in Fall quarter 2004.  Her research interests focus on Indonesia, beginning with doctoral fieldwork in central Java.  Upon graduation from the University of Hawai`i in 1994, she joined the Southeast Asian Studies Programme at the National University of Singapore, where she taught for five years. 

Dr. Cooper's published work includes, "Tohari's Trilogy: Passages of Power and Time in Java" (2004), an exploration of changing attitudes toward gender and performance through Ahmad Tohari's fictional account of a rural hamlet set in the politically turbulent 1960s in Indonesia.  Other examples are "Singing and Silences: Transformations of Power through Javanese Seduction Scenarios" (2000) and "In the Wake of Flor and Sarah: Analyzing the Mega-Dramas of Transnational Dilemmas," (1997).  The latter essay deals with the ongoing human rights concerns involving women from countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia who cross borders to work in the households of Singaporeans. 

Dr. Cooper's current research includes the transformation of Javanese family rituals into public events advertized in mass media, and the rise of the controversial 'campur sari' pop genre mixing traditional gamelan music with kroncong, an Indonesian pop genre using Western scales and instrumentation.  Dr. Cooper is also working on a book featuring the complementary aspects of Javanese gender relations with the aim of advancing existing gender theories.  She has taught at UC Santa Cruz and UC Santa Barbara and has been active as a singer with Javanese gamelan ensembles in the United States, including performances at the University of Hawai`i, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside, California Institute of the Arts, and San Diego State University.

Parking at UCLA costs $7.

Cost : Free and open to the public.


Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies