Jathilan Dance: Experiencing the Spirits

yelling, crawling and rolling. Later, they begin to show some animal-like behavior: hissing, roaring and moving on all fours. This is my fieldwork. The place is Java, the Special Region of Yogyakarta. Pawang is a kind of ritual specialist believed to be capable of controlling animals, spirits, and other invisible forces. But more commonly, or so it seems, pawangs apply their powers in controlling possession or inducing and then ending the state of trance during jathilan dance. This dance is the focus of my attention. And this research is my second shot at trying to have an academic career. I came a long way: from the field as abstract as the history of Western philosophy and the land as distant as Russia. Running away from minimal wages, long teaching hours, and impossibly high expectations about presenting and publishing, I found my new passion as far away from the notions of enlightened modernity or cynical postmodernity as possible.

Ethnographic Poetry and Academic Writing: A Reflection

“Whatever your eye can see, it's vecik.” This line resonated with me while I was conducting my fieldwork in Taiwan with the indigenous Paiwan village known as Paridrayan. Good friend and prolific artist, Etan Pavavaljung, once mentioned to me this Paiwan concept known as vecik. The concept, briefly speaking, implies an interconnectedness that links all tangible things with each other. From humans, rocks, and trees to winds and words, they are connected to each other through vecik...“However,” he added, “something like poetry can be vecik.”. He continued, “let’s take for example, a village elder reciting a poem about his childhood. He recites verses about his flower garden from his childhood home as well as reminiscing his childhood days. These words become vecik.”

Holding Belief in Suspense

Some months ago, I went for an early morning run with a mate at my fieldsite. After a short trot together, she left for work, and I decided – against all advice from my adopted Aboriginal family and many others – to put off my fieldnotes and continue a few more kilometres on the road alone. A short way up, I saw in the distance a lone figure seemingly dancing about on the road. I was all at once entranced, curious, astonished, and frightened. I turned and returned speedier than ever before!

The Fallible and the Untrustworthy: Writing Culture as the Unreliable Narrator

The notion of the Unreliable Narrator is, for me, not a critique of the perceived moral failings of the anthropological project, but a methodological narrative construct integral to the work of writing culture. The question of unreliability is not a question of believability but of what parts of a complex and convoluted truth we the readers are willing to sign on to and invest in. It reflects an understanding and acceptance that no single truth is wholly accurate but also that no individual account is without some measure of reality.