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Priests and Programmers

Priests and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali

With a new foreword by William C. Clark
a new preface by J. Stephen Lansing
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Priests and Programmers
    Book Description:

    For the Balinese, the whole of nature is a perpetual resource: through centuries of carefully directed labor, the engineered landscape of the island's rice terraces has taken shape. According to Stephen Lansing, the need for effective cooperation in water management links thousands of farmers together in hierarchies of productive relationships that span entire watersheds.

    Lansing describes the network of water temples that once managed the flow of irrigation water in the name of the Goddess of the Crater Lake. Using the techniques of ecological simulation modeling as well as cultural and historical analysis, Lansing argues that the symbolic system of temple rituals is not merely a reflection of utilitarian constraints but also a basic ingredient in the organization of production.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2763-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    William C. Clark

    Steve Lansing began the work reported here, like many anthropologists before him, with the simple intention of exploring the intricate beauty of Balinese culture. Fortunately for those of us whose appreciation of cultural anthropology is more enthusiastic than professional, his curiosity led him to explore questions and deploy methods that reached beyond the boundaries of his native discipline. The result was an enormously rich study of how Baliʼs human institutions and environmental landscapes coevolved over the centuries to produce a complex adaptive system. That system proved to be sustainable in the face of volcanic eruptions, dynastic warfare, and colonial invasion....

  6. Preface to the 2007 Edition
    (pp. xix-xxx)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxxi-2)
  8. INTRODUCTION The Gods of the Countryside
    (pp. 3-16)

    I first became curious about water temples in the mid-1970s, when I was gathering materials for a study of the historical evolution of temples in Bali. One of the peculiarities of Balinese temples is their anonymity: most temples look exactly alike, and except for a few days each year when festivals are held, they are generally left empty and abandoned. The functions of the temple, and the identities of the gods worshiped within, are often known only to the templeʼs congregation. In a landscape dotted with hundreds of nearly identical temples, it is not a simple matter to work out...

  9. CHAPTER ONE “Income to Which No Tears Are Attached”
    (pp. 17-36)

    In the year 1938, on the date the Balinese callGalunganwhen the spirits of the ancestors are believed to descend into the temples, an unprecedented ceremony took place at the supreme temple of Besakih, under the auspices of the colonial government. Eight Balinese aristocrats, draped with Dutch medals and Balinese gold, were consecrated as rulers (Zelfbestuurder) of the territories that the Dutch recognized as the eight former kingdoms of precolonial Bali. Balinese kingship, which had been obliterated by naval gunfire a generation earlier, was thus reconstituted in a ceremony that mingled the ritual paraphernalia of Balinese kingship and high...

  10. CHAPTER TWO The Powers of Water
    (pp. 37-49)

    We have done, for the moment, with the history of colonial scholarship on Bali. Our concern is no longer with the development of the colonial discourse on the state but with what this discourse failed to discover. With the collapse of the Dutch empire after World War II, one might imagine that the question of the role of the state in Balinese irrigation would vanish into the limbo that had already claimed such topics as the morality of the opium monopoly. But by that time, Balinese irrigation had already entered the literature of Western scholarship as a case in point...

  11. CHAPTER THREE The Waters of Power
    (pp. 50-72)

    InNegara: The Balinese Theatre State in the Nineteenth Century, Clifford Geertz described the cult of divine kingship as the basis of power in traditional Balinese kingdoms, “The whole of the negara—court life, the traditions that organized it, the extractions that supported it, the privileges that accompanied it—was essentially directed towards defining what power was; and what power was was what kings were.”¹

    The cult of divine kingship, as Geertz explained, claimed unlimited, godlike power for each ruler. A king must be a “universal monarch, the core and pivot of the universe.” These claims were somewhat diluted by...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR The Temple of the Crater Lake
    (pp. 73-94)

    From anywhere in central Bali, farmers need only glance up to the clouds around Mount Batur to be reminded of the ultimate origin of the water flowing into their fields. In the crater of the volcano, at an elevation high above the height at which rice may be grown, is an immense freshwater lake, stretching over 1,718 hectares.¹ This reservoir is regarded as the ultimate source of water for the rivers and springs that provide irrigation water for the whole of central Bali. Temple priests describe the mountain lake as a sacred mandala of waters, fed by springs lying at...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Chance Observations and the Metaphysics of Taxation
    (pp. 95-110)

    We are now in a position to—as it were—enter the library of the Temple of the Crater Lake and read the manuscripts relating the history of its relationships with thesubaks. The concept of Lake Batur as a mandala of waters gives meaning to the cryptic lists of specific obligations owed to the temple by thesubaks. As we shall see in this chapter, a formal structure underlies the relationship ofsubaksto the temple, which is ultimately based on the hydro-logic of irrigation dependency. The many manuscripts dealing with ritual obligations may be interpreted as attempts to...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Massive Guidance
    (pp. 111-126)

    The colonial era ended in Bali in 1947 with the birth of the nation of Indonesia. But the end of colonialism did not mean a return to traditional society, to the world as it had been before the arrival of the Dutch. The instruments of government created by the Dutch were not dismantled but carried over into the postcolonial era. In Bali, as elsewhere in Indonesia, the period from independence to the fall of Sukarno in 1965 was an era in which local government bureaucracies, lacking funding, were largely inactive. But this was soon to change. During the 1950s, Indonesia...

  15. CONCLUSION Sociogenesis
    (pp. 127-133)

    It is sobering, in retrospect, to consider the apparent ease with which the history of Balinese irrigation was rewritten into a story of feudal kingdoms. Water temples, the Goddess of the Lake, thetikacalendar, thesoewinih, and the opium monopoly—all were very nearly submerged beneath a manufactured history ofsubaks, sedahans, and reconstituted kings. For the colonial authorities, irrigation was inextricably tied to sensitive issues of sovereignty, taxation, and the legitimacy of colonial rule. The Dutch established bureaucratic systems to “control” the various aspects of irrigation. These bureaucracies collected taxes, built irrigation works, performed land surveys, and issued...

    (pp. 134-144)

    “A big book,” somebody has written, “is a big evil.” As a yet unredeemed sinner, I am envious of Steve Lansing for his remarkable achievement: he has written a book that is as short as it is pithy and as clear as it is elegant. Although I was greatly honored by his request that I write a foreword to it, I must confess that I did not find the task an easy one. A foreword, I understand, may be valuable for either (and ideally both) of two reasons: because it brings out more clearly and in a briefer compass the...

  17. APPENDIX A. Plan of the Temple of the Crater Lake
    (pp. 145-152)
  18. APPENDIX B. Technical Report on the Ecological Simulation Model
    (pp. 153-158)
    James N. Kremer
  19. Notes
    (pp. 159-180)
  20. Index
    (pp. 181-183)