Images of stock clowns from the traditional Thai shadow play (nang talung) are found throughout the villages and towns of the Thai Buddhist majority provinces of southern Thailand. These extremely popular funny men appear not only in shadow play performances but also in commercials, story books, logos, and billboards. Clowns also appear as tourist souvenirs, sacred amulets, crafted into statues, and the like as indigenous reflections of southern Thai identity. In this article, I discuss the complex and often ambiguous relationship between the clown's traditional sacred power and his forays into southern Thailand's political and economic landscape. By so doing, I focus my attention on the clown as being both a subversive and conservative agent. On the one hand, he represents a Turnerian-like anti-structure, which allows him to test the limits of social and political acceptability and on which his ritual personality as a sacred being rests. On the other hand however, shadow play clowns are celebrated by puppeteers, local audiences and state officials as being embodiments of modernity and Thailand's national quest for regional distinctiveness.
Drawing on ethnographic research in Yogyakarta (Indonesia) in 2001, this article discusses two musical events with clear political dimensions. It seeks to broaden the parameters of discussion on music and politics by engaging two theoretical perspectives. The first, Bourdieu's bureaucratic field, highlights various "species of capital"; the second, grounded cosmopolitanism, considers attitudes, practices, and outcomes not easily explained within a framework of political contestation. The cases explored are a campursari Awards Night at the Regional Parliament and a street music (musik jalanan) contest at the National Air Force Academy. While maintaining that musical performance cannot be reduced entirely to politics, the article concludes that the bureaucratic capital of physical force dominated the particular cases.
This article explores how ideas about empowerment often end up being manipulated by those in power, its implications, and what effect this has had on the trajectory of the Catholic Church in the western part of Flores during this period of revival, empowerment, and "indigenization". What many have referred to as a "decentralization of money politics" into the provincial regions during the regional autonomy era seems to have reinforced an increasing emphasis on money in power configurations; this has occurred not only in local political dealings, but also in the church hierarchy. Against the wider historical background of the Catholic Church in Western Flores, particularly the rise of the "self-supporting Church" in the Manggaraian Diocese, this article examines developments of indigenizing and empowering the local Catholic community. The suggestion is that the conflicts in the Manggaraian Church reflect strains that have existed historically in the structure of the Catholic Church and represent tension within the Church between struggles for power over the community and efforts to empower the community.
The Cham people had established extensive and intense webs of relationships that encompassed activities in the economic, religious, cultural, and political spheres throughout maritime Southeast Asia. This article seeks to answer the question: What qualities do the Chams possess that allowed them to successfully participate in the cultural and social dynamics in societies other than their own? Throughout the course of this article, I attempt to locate Cham ethnicity in the context of several theories of Ethnicity. This will be followed by an attempt to address this issue through various means namely understanding the phenomenon of "Cham Ethnic mobility" throughout the perspective of "layers" i.e., the "historical" layer, the "religious layer", and the "oppressed minority". I argue that by analysing the Chams through the perspective of these layers, one is able to garner a more nuanced view of the Chams especially in regard to their ability to negotiate cultural and national boundaries of nation states in Southeast Asia.
This article is a preliminary observation of local politics and local identity in Kotagede, Central Java, Indonesia, during the post-Soeharto period. It examines the roles of Muhammadiyah and local actors in maintaining local identity in this town. I highlight the importance of Islamic and Javanese traditions in shaping the local history and the dynamics of local politics in Kotagede. I also argue that there is a place for local actors and social networks in the pursuit of preserving local identity in this town. Some observations are made about the impact of the Yogyakarta earthquake and future research directions.