Inventing the Barong.Myth, ritual, and alterity on Bali
Gottowik answers the question of what Barong sculptures mean - for anthropology and for the Balinese. He traces the history of these sacral objects in the history of anthropology and their emergence as a sign and emblem of Balinese culture. He especially analyzes sculptures of wild, black men (Jero Gedé) together with a young, white and beautiful woman (Jero Luh) which he interprets as instances of ´interethnic relations´ and processes of ´negotiation´. By doing so, he revises the ethnographic perspective on Barong sculptures and gives them a new interpretation in the contexts of myth, ritual, and alterity. Gottowik starts with a historical account of Barong research - beginning with travelers in the early 19th century, first ethnographic research, then early 20th century ethnography (W. Spies, M. Covarrubias, B. deZoete, R. Goris, G. Bateson, M. Mead, and J. Belo) and ´Rangda and Barong as fascinosum´. The second half of the 20th century is then described as a time of indigenous ethnography and criticism and the de-mystification of the Barong. Then, ritual contexts are described (myth, dogma, ritual practice, a liturgical cycle) and interpreted: its functions, symbolism and intellectual aspects. The last chapter deals with the dynamic relationship between ritual and mythological-legendary narrative: The latter are ritually enacted, and Gottowik discusses three indigenous approaches, or interpretations of the above-mentioned black-white couple: mythical, historical, and magical. In a next step, ´external´ interpretations of the story are discussed: Chinese, Aga, Balinese intellectuals, western ethnographers.
Keywords: Barong, ritual (Bali), alterity, myth interpretation, Jero Gedé, interethnic relations, negotiation, Rangda, symbolism and ritual, intellectuals and myth