My work as an anthropologist (for a C.V. click here) has focused primarily on Southeast Asia, specifically Indonesia where I have done fieldwork and taught: the Priangan area of West Java (1970-72), Aceh (1980-82), East Java and Madura (1989-93, 2004), and the Banten area of West Java (1996).
Although over the years my interests have varied the main focus of my research has been on belief systems and symbolic representations as these relate to daily life, both how these can be understood in their own right and in the light of anthropological explanations. Iíve written a book on beliefs about tigers in Southeast Asia (especially Indonesia) and a major paper on Javanese spirit beliefs was published in 2006 (Crossroads vol. 18, #1).
More and more I have been asking how communities symbolically define themselves through the interlocking and sometimes conflicting stories that their participants tell and accept as reality. Recently I have looked at how perceptions of myths are shaped by the media and how the influence of the latter varies with the location of the community and its local concerns. I presented a paper on this topic at the 14th Workshop of the European Social Science Java Network (ESSJN), Salatiga/Yogyakarta 12-15 January 2005 (for the ESSJN see: http://www.ceas.gu.se/essjn/).
At the same time, the movement of mythologies into the new niches created by film, television, and the Internet provides them with a non-local space in which their veracity does not depend on local icons. This releases them from local constraints and makes it possible for them to be recombined with other beliefs. Work on this topic is on-going.
an experimental seminar on ritual at the Royal
University of London where we explored how far a ritual can be taken
out of its
context without losing its original meaning.