Fabricating Power with Balinese Textiles
Anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson were pioneers in using visual anthropological techniques to study the aesthetics of bodily motion in Bali. What is less well known is that they also collected textiles, paintings, puppets, and carvings, most of which are collected at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. This book and its accompanying exhibit explore the Mead-Bateson textiles as forms of power. Some textiles in the exhibit are valued for their magical powers derived from techniques of fabrication and contexts of use; other cloths are important for the stories that surround them as records of a period in Balinese history. An added layer of meaning is introduced as these fabrics are curated and exhibited in Western countries. This book reveals how the "power" of Balinese textiles depends upon the efficacies attributed to these objects as they journey from fabrication and ritual use in their native context to curation and display in the West.
About the Author
Urmila Mohan is the Bard Graduate Center/American Museum of Natural History Postdoctoral Fellow in Museum Anthropology. She is the founder and editor of the Material Religions blog.