Art as Politics: Re-Crafting Identities, Tourism, and Power in Tana Toraja, Indonesia

Hardback: $59.00
ISBN-13: 9780824829995
Published: August 2006
Paperback: $27.00
ISBN-13: 9780824830724
Published: August 2006

Additional Information

304 pages | 35 illus., 15 in color
  • About the Book
  • Art as Politics explores the intersection of art, identity politics, and tourism in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Based on long-term ethnographic research from the 1980s to the present, the book offers a nuanced portrayal of the Sa’dan Toraja, a predominantly Christian minority group in the world’s most populous Muslim country. Celebrated in anthropological and tourism literatures for their spectacular traditional houses, sculpted effigies of the dead, and pageantry-filled funeral rituals, the Toraja have entered an era of accelerated engagement with the global economy marked by on-going struggles over identity, religion, and social relations.

    In her engaging account, Kathleen Adams chronicles how various Toraja individuals and groups have drawn upon artistically-embellished “traditional” objects—as well as monumental displays, museums, UNESCO ideas about “word heritage,” and the World Wide Web—to shore up or realign aspects of a cultural heritage perceived to be under threat. She also considers how outsiders—be they tourists, art collectors, members of rival ethnic groups, or government officials—have appropriated and reframed Toraja art objects for their own purposes. Her account illustrates how art can serve as a catalyst in identity politics, especially in the context of tourism and social upheaval.

    Ultimately, this insightful work prompts readers to rethink persistent and pernicious popular assumptions—that tourism invariably brings a loss of agency to local communities or that tourist art is a compromised form of expression. Art as Politics promises to be a favorite with students and scholars of anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, ethnic relations, art, and Asian studies.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Kathleen M. Adams, Author

      Kathleen M. Adams is professor of anthropology at Loyola University Chicago and adjunct curator at the Field Museum of Natural History.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • The unusual richness and appeal of this insightful book unfold in layers, delightful to read yet theoretically sophisticated. Attentive to the ironies, entanglements, and serendipities of life, Adams demonstrates through prose and photographs the changing worlds of Toraja individuals and their artistic productions. Her deeply perceptive, epic account has so much to say that it leaves no room for jargon. She offers instead a mature, refreshingly honest, engaging approach that dynamically illuminates the intricate interconnections between arts and society in the contemporary world. An anthropology of art for these times, Art as Politics meticulously draws from scholarly works while building on the richness of its own history.
      —Jill Forshee
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