You are on page 1of 27

Feeling your Way in Java 53

Feeling your Way in Java:

An Essay on Society and Emotion

Andrew Beatty
Brunel University, West London, UK

abstract This article reconsiders the place of emotion in society. With the example
of Java, I argue for an expanded understanding of social sentiments that would recog-
nize a structuring role for emotion beyond the family and the shaping, through emo-
tional practices, of a fluid but crucial level of community. Using Balinese ethnology
as a foil, I contrast the uses of emotion in Java and Bali, drawing, toward the end,
upon Batesons concept of schismogenesis.
keywords Emotion, social structure, Java, Bali, Bateson, schismogenesis

he relation between emotion and social organization has been a perennial
theme in anthropology since Durkheim made sentiments crucial to
the constitution of society. Indeed, authors of quite different theoretical
orientation have built upon Durkheims insight, obsessively reformulating it,
often with little change, sometimes rediscovering it for themselves. Radcliffe-
Brown was only repeating the lesson when he wrote:
A society depends for its existence on the presence in the minds of its members of
a certain system of sentiments (Radcliffe-Brown 1948 [1922]:2334).1

Like the master, from the beginning Radcliffe-Brown saw ritual as the engine
of social solidarity, its purpose being to produce a change in the feelings
among participants (1948:239). The same conclusions are found in his lecture
on Religion and society of 1945, unmodified by the Malinowskian fieldwork
revolution and almost half a century of thinking on the subject (Kuper 1977:107).
One might assume the social theory of emotions or the emotional theory
of society to be a hallmark of functionalism were it not to re-emerge in all
sorts of unexpected places. Here, for example, is Clifford Geertz on the Balinese

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Routledge Journals, Taylor and Francis Group Ltd, on behalf of the Museum of Ethnography
issn 0014-1844 print/issn 1469-588x online. doi: 10.1080/00141840500048540
54 andrew beatty

What the cockfight says it says in a vocabulary of sentiment the thrill of risk, the
despair of loss, the pleasure of triumph. Yet what it says is not merely that risk is
exciting, loss depressing, or triumph gratifying, banal tautologies of affect, but that
it is of these emotions, thus exampled, that society is built and individuals are put
together (Geertz 1973a:449).

Or consider Fred Myers on the Pintupi:

What is structure, then, and where is it located? Many analysts of hunter-gatherer
organization have ignored the process by which structures are created and reproduced
through time ... the most salient aspect of living in Pintupi communities is its affective
basis, the reliance on emotional criteria rather than on rules as the framework of
sociality (Myers 1986:18).

Others have stopped short of arguing a constitutive role for emotions. The
culture and personality studies of the 1930s and 1940s, like their successors
in person-centered ethnography and cultural psychology, linked emotional
styles with social forms and showed that emotions are conceived and evaluated
in diverse ways; but they were expressly concerned with cultural integration
rather than Durkheimian social solidarity (Benedict 1934; Sapir 1949; Heelas
1986, Levy 1994; Shweder 1991; Hollan 2001). Emotions were held to exemplify
cultural difference in contrasting behavioural patterns rather than to connect
persons in groups. More recent approaches through discourse have dispensed
with the social/cultural distinction but, in some cases, have retained the older
concern with functional fit common to mid-century British social anthropology
and American cultural anthropology. Thus, for Michelle Rosaldo, affects and
conceptions of the self assume a shape that corresponds at least in part
with the societies and polities within which actors live their lives (Rosaldo
1984:149; my emphasis); or, in a similar formulation, differences in ordering
anger reflect consistent differences in the organization of social life (Rosaldo,
quoted in Levy 1983:133; my emphasis). Somewhat in tension with this crypto-
functionalism, most authors writing in this vein treat emotion as a form of
commentary or action, a discursive practice, questioning how emotional
discourses are deployed in social contexts (Abu Lughod & Lutz 1990:28;
White 1992). Emotions, in this view, are ideologically loaded judgments or
cognitions rather than, or more than (much hangs on the quibble), feelings
(Leavitt 1996). Hence, where a structuring potential in emotion has been
recognized, it tends to imply a denial of subjective feeling, as if the two were

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Feeling your Way in Java 55

Arguments for and against a constitutive role for emotion are part of the
history of anthropology and one could easily epitomize successive theoretical
paradigms by showing where their champions stood on the issue: think of
Radcliffe-Browns weeping Andamanese, or his extension-of-sentiments ex-
planation of the avunculate, or Lvi-Strausss atoms of kinship with their posi-
tive and negative signs denoting relations of familiarity and antagonism, or
the notorious mid-century quarrel over the causes of unilateral cross-cousin
marriage.2 And whatever ones favoured paradigm, no account of kinship is
complete without its cast of jealous brothers, joking cousins, aloof in-laws,
and indulgent grandparents. Evidently, to talk of social structure is to talk of
But what kinds of society? What kinds of emotion? Both terms present
problems, definitional and ontological; yet until quite recently, the two were
not equally problematic: it was the social tie that was to be explained; the
emotion was self-evident. (At most one made a practical distinction between
real and conventional emotions.) Furthermore, it was clear, though not always
explicit, that one was mostly talking about emotion in certain, usually unspeci-
fied, types of society. The stock characters of introductory textbooks and
professional folklore the jealous brothers and doting aunts who personi-
fied a kin status by striking an emotional posture lived in societies possessing
what Malinowski called a firm tribal constitution: they belonged to lineages
or age grades, waged tribal feuds, exchanged bridewealth, and moved along
prescribed paths through systems of marriage alliance. In such architecturally
firm societies, the ethnographers task was to show the functional or symbolic
fit of sentiments with institutions, emotions being the soft connective tissue
of the tribal structure. Social sentiments, in this sense, meant conventional
attitudes of respect, hostility, or affection associated with particular relations
and contrasting with, or dynamically integrated with (Lvi-Strauss 1963), the
system of terminology. Of course, these simple attitudinal tags were never
intended to capture the full emotional range of actual relationships (which,
regrettably, were not generally of anthropological interest): they referred to
a prominent, often public, aspect of behaviour, something as constraining
and categorical as the naming of the relation itself. Hence the emphasis on
conventional actions: the giving of food, body posture, politeness, avoidance,
and so on.
The question then arises whether sentiment can play a comparable struc-
turing role in societies lacking a firm tribal skeleton such as the so-called loosely-
structured systems of Southeast Asia: large-scale, densely populated, peasant

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

56 andrew beatty

societies that get by without clans, castes, and corporate groups and which
consequently have seemed, to many, perilously unstructured and disorganized
(Hobart 1990:317). 3 What, in places like Java, makes things hang together?
Class solidarities? Political alignments? Complicated rules of land tenure? The
tyranny of the overlord? All these have been proposed; so too have shared
values, religion, and fidelity to a tradition. Not, however, sentiments.
If structure and sentiment (to borrow a famous coinage) have any con-
nection in Java it will not be revealed by older approaches with their roots in
functionalism and synoptic structuralist classifications. Instead we need an
approach that is responsive both to the flexibility of Javanese social groupings
and to the different modes of relation that we sum up in the too-convenient
term emotion. Exemplary work in this respect has been done in the Pacific
by, among others, Catherine Lutz (1988), and the last decade has seen a growing
interest in new approaches. However, the problem that faces all students of
emotion of deciding whether we are talking about internal feelings, their
manifestations or public expressions, stereotyped attitudes, conventional
sentiments, discourses of emotion, actual observed episodes, or reports of
others feelings continues to bedevil discussion (Beatty 2005). In this essay
I work toward a pragmatic view of emotion that takes account of different
elements of emotion and their varying relation to social context; and I try to
avoid unwarranted psychologizing while recognizing the subjectivity inherent
in emotional episodes. Equally necessary is a more flexible view of structure:
one that recognizes the importance in daily life of shifting patterns of associa-
tion and co-operation, a level of community that has personal, economic,
and religious significance without ever attaining enduring corporate form.
The burden of this essay will therefore be to argue a structuring role for emotion
within a fluid social field above and beyond the nuclear family household.
A first step is to question the generally accepted view that kinship, with
its inflexible, particularistic, ascriptive social ties, plays only a secondary part
in Javanese social structure as a whole (H. Geertz 1961:2). This finding, which
no doubt made sense in the semi-urban setting of the Geertzes fieldwork, is
harder to sustain in the rural hinterland, yet it is the orthodox view not merely
of Java as a whole but of lowland Southeast Asia generally. In rural Burma,
according to Spiro in his psychoanalytically-inspired study, the web of kinship
... is so pervasive that it has the effect of minimizing the importance of kinship
beyond the core kindred as a basis for social differentiation or group organiza-
tion (Spiro 1977:96). Spiro cites a study of Central Thailand in which, except
for ceremonial assistance, this circumstance of widespread relatedness ... has

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Feeling your Way in Java 57

little social significance for the villagers (Piker, in Spiro 1977:97). In these
cognatic systems, we are led to assume, the Durkheimian nexus of society,
ritual, and emotion is absent, or has minimal force. Beyond the family a
small-scale, transient affair of particular, dyadic relations kinship is no more
than a diffuse sense of belonging expressed in an encompassing generational
terminology. And since everyone is potentially or nominally related and there
are no corporate groups, no rules of exclusion, its value is diluted to zero.
Kinship is everywhere and nowhere. And so not coincidentally is emotion;
for emotion is primarily a matter of individual psychology, a domestic concern
best dealt with under Freud, family and socialization. Home is where the
heart is.

Bali, by all accounts, is a special case and it provides an instructive contrast
to Java next-door. (In the intermittent comparisons that follow, I am less in-
terested in what Bali is really like a matter for Bali specialists than for
the light its ethnology might throw upon its neighbour.) Where rural Java is
sparsely organized above household level, Bali is top-heavy with structures:
hamlet councils, temple congregations, irrigation societies, titled kin groups,
work parties and drama clubs (Barth 1993; Geertz 1973b; Geertz & Geertz
1975; Howe 2001). The corporatist emphasis in Balinese social organiza-
tion and cultural value cannot be overstressed, writes Carol Warren (1993:9),
adding that such groups are by definition bound by rules rules which are
recorded in sacred charters or constitutions called awig-awig, whose etymol-
ogy means not loose/unruly (Warren 1993:11). Not Javanese, one might add.
But neither is Bali any closer to those ethnographic exemplars beloved of
introductory textbooks in which interlocking sentiments combine and con-
trast sets of kin. Life in a Balinese village is a highly complicated affair that
permits no such emotional typecasting. The patterns which define correct
and permissible behaviour are exceedingly complex, wrote Gregory Bateson
(1972:92), and the individual Balinese ... has continual anxiety lest he make
an error. More-over, the rules are not of such a kind that they can be summarized
either in a simple recipe or an emotional attitude. ...and so the individual Bali-
-nese is forever picking his way, like a tightrope walker, afraid at any moment
lest he make some misstep.
This picture has been elaborated by subsequent authors. Clifford Geertz
used the term stage fright to describe the predicament of the highly strung
Balinese, petrified by the theatrical demands of daily life and a fear of the

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

58 andrew beatty

mask slipping (1973b:4012). And in the latest revision an inversion of the

conventional wisdom that preserves the terms of debate Unni Wikan (1990)
identifies a fear of sorcery as the dominant concern, the purpose of Balinese
etiquette being to mask agitation rather than as in Geertz to abolish in-
dividuality. Whereas other authors describe a society in which emotion is
smoothed carefully out of existence, Wikan has it boiling beneath the surface.
Management of emotion, she tells us, is at the root of a Balinese design for
living (Wikan 1990:xvii).
Now all this is very impressive, especially to one stranded in the emotional
shallows of Java only a short distance away. And yet Bali and Java share, or
at least once shared, a great many things, so the extremity of the contrast is
a bit puzzling. Bali is sometimes seen, not wholly inaccurately, as a cultural
archive of the old, pre-Islamic Java. It was colonized and transformed by re-
fugees from the newly Islamized states of Java in the sixteenth century. Blam-
bangan (now the regency of Banyuwangi), where I carried out fieldwork, was
a kind of half-way house, intermittently ruled by Bali, and still Hindu well
into the nineteenth century. The local dialect of Javanese has many words in
common with Balinese. And the area shares cultural performances with its
neighbour, including the gong orchestra, female trance dances, and a spirit-
possession drama featuring a barong, the Balinese lion-dragon. Given so much
in common interwoven histories, centuries of continuous cultural interchange,
a political economy based on wet-rice cultivation, a shared Indic mythology,
linguistic roots, and related calendrical systems it would not be unreasonable
to expect similarities in the general tenor of life and in that characteristic
patterning of emotions that Bateson who formulated the problem most
clearly called ethos (Bateson 1972).
So what becomes of Balinese stage fright in the disenchanted, patchily
Islamized setting of East Java, or more particularly Banyuwangi, where a few
of the Balinese stage props have been left behind? 4 What pattern of senti-
ments, if any, characterizes the fluid, invertebrate life of a Javanese village? Is
sentiment even socially relevant outside of the domestic group?
To answer this question is also again, not coincidentally to tackle the
problem of what lies beyond the house yard and the picket fence. I will argue
that, just as Javas ethnographers have tended to look straight past the com-
munity, as through a transparent window, seeing only the more tangible reality
of the household, so they have domesticated emotion and treated it as a prop-
erty of individuals interacting mainly as family members, ignoring its wider
social contexts or generalizing in a variant of the extension-of-sentiments thesis.

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Feeling your Way in Java 59

The ingredients of analysis the household, the nuclear family, and family
sentiments (mostly understood from a Freudian perspective) have tended
to fall within standard Western conceptions that limit the roles of both emotion
and kinship in society. In offering a different view I shall therefore be aiming
to dismantle the household, to demonstrate its permeability and openness;
and in doing so I shall underline the reality of the community, as well as showing
a structuring role for social sentiments in broader social fields.

Anthropology of Emotion
First I want briefly to link this argument with some preliminary comments
on anthropological approaches to emotion. (For a fuller discussion of these
points see Beatty 2005.) No less than their colleagues elsewhere, Javas eth-
nographers have generally followed Western assumptions about the constitu-
tion of emotion, its boundedness, location, and social significance. The debate
has been mainly about translation. But evidence from other parts of Indonesia
suggests that emotion is not always conceived as a distinct category; it is not
necessarily predicated of individuals; and it enters into public and political
discourses in ways unfamiliar to us and easily misconstrued (Beatty 2005;
Just 1991).
Three assumptions run through much of the literature on emotion:
1. While it is accepted that emotion lexicons vary in their emphasis (Wierz-
bicka 1999), anthropologists have nevertheless assumed that a domain of emo-
tion is recognizable as such; in other words, that emotions, however classified
and however culturally specified, are constituted in similar and consistent
ways within and across cultures.
2. Because of this assumption, fieldworkers have felt they know when they
are in the presence of an emotion. If there is any doubt, they fall back on
empathy or some notion of basic emotions as a common human endowment
(see discussion in Wikan 1990).
3. A third assumption what Bock (1980:978) calls the continuity assump-
tion expresses the view that emotional patterns and social responses are
inculcated in early childhood, forming a template for adult behaviour (for a
critique see Shweder 1991). Culture and personality theory took the idea to
extremes; but recent studies of language socialization (e.g., Ochs 1988) simi-
larly affirm that a childs use of emotion words is the model for later usages.
One difficulty with this thesis is that given doubts about domains as sketched
above empirical examples do not necessarily compel conviction. Neverthe-
less, the standard approach, in the old as in the new literature, has been one

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

60 andrew beatty

of empirical overkill: massive documentation of limited realms of experi-

ence tiny domestic scenarios of teasing and tantrums with hazily theorized
links to broader social processes.
A famous example, central to their analysis of Balinese social organization,
appears in Bateson and Meads book, Balinese Character (1942: plate 47) in
which a sequence of shots, selected from 25,000 photographs, purportedly
shows a mother or mother-surrogate tantalizing her son, offering the breast
and then pushing him away, inviting affection and then spurning it. Bateson
and Mead read this as suppression or muting of climax, a training in with-
drawal from cumulative activity something which, allegedly, characterizes
Balinese social life in general.
In a reanalysis of the material, two psychiatrists, one Western, the other
Balinese, claim that what the photos show is the boy biting the womans nipple
and her flinching response (Jensen & Suryani 1992:69). The practice of tantaliz-
ing a child, or stimulating and then turning away, far from being typical, they
say, is practically unknown. So the sequence can have no structural signi-
Whatever the truth of their interpretation and without doubting the bril-
liance and industry of the ethnographers one has to wonder whether the
Bateson-Mead double-barrelled approach to fieldwork was best suited to an
investigation of emotion. Bateson had seen Mead with Reo Fortune, her first
husband, at work in New Guinea and wrote:

They bully and chivvy their informants and hurry them till they dont know whether
they are on their heads or heels. But in the end I was converted and I am going to
do some bullying too ... I spend hours feeling my way and getting into rapport with
natives and it is all quite unnecessary (Lipset 1980:136)

As it turned out, rapport with the Balinese proved impossible. Mead described
them as the least responsive people, I think, I have ever known (Sullivan
1999:12); Bateson found them impenetrably dull. But perhaps their field-
work personas had an intimidating effect. Bateson, all six-feet-five of him,
wore a demonic garland of cameras as he stalked the village for subjects and
was so used to looking through a viewfinder that he declared it impossible
to maintain camera consciousness. The shock-haired, bespectacled Mead
was thought by Balinese to resemble Rangda, the mythical witch (Jensen &
Suryani 1992:47). With their intrusive style of fieldwork, it is hardly surprising
that their subjects glazed over and refused to be engaged. But this non-engage-
ment, notoriously, became a token of national character.

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Feeling your Way in Java 61

It is a character curiously cut off from interpersonal relationships, existing in a

state of dreamy-relaxed dissociation, with intervals of non-personal concentration
in trance (Mead, cited in Jensen and Suryani 1992:60).

You may be unconvinced perhaps we, as ethnographic subjects, would have

been less polite, more engaged, than the camera-shy Balinese villagers
but it is the Bateson-Mead version of Bali above all others which has endured.
Where Mead wrote that Balinese dont recognize time and Bateson found
no concept of change of pattern over time (Sullivan 1999:1213), Clifford
Geertz speaks of a motionless present and a static view of time. Where
Bateson thought of a person on a tightrope, preoccupied with correct perform-
ance, Geertz saw a frozen actor. And he, too, makes absence of climax the
pivot of structure and sentiment.

Social activities do not build, or are not permitted to build, toward definitive
consummations ... Balinese social life lacks climax (Geertz 1973b :4034).

I cite the Balinese case at length not only because it represents the most con-
certed effort and by some of anthropologys most accomplished practi-
tioners to understand the structural implications of emotion, but because,
as we shall see, the ethnographic details have curious and paradoxical echoes
in neighbouring Java. As Paul Theroux reminds us in his memoir of V.S. Nai-
paul, to meet the sibling, especially the estranged sibling, of an old friend is
to see familiar features in a new light; the one appears a version, a commen-
tary, sometimes even a parody of the other (Theroux 1998: 263). In rethinking
Java, Bali at least the Bali constructed by its best-known interpreters pro-
vides that fraternal perspective.
So I come back to my initial problem, the matter of life in a Javanese village
and of how to get beyond a picture of social structure as a composite of discrete
households shored up by conventionalized sentiments learned in childhood.

Navigating the Javanese Neighbourhood

The setting is Bayu, an agricultural village of some 2000 souls near Banyu-
wangi, at the easternmost tip of Java (Beatty 1999). By Javanese standards,
Bayu like other villages of native Banyuwangi folk is relatively undifferenti-
ated and egalitarian in spirit, and sees itself as such. Landholdings vary but
differences in wealth are not translated into conspicuous consumption or dis-
plays of fine manners. (The speech levels for which Javanese is famous hardly
figure in local practice.) There is a definite pressure on living at the same

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

62 andrew beatty

level, not flaunting your wealth or standing out. A record of food purchases
at the village store, kept by a curious visitor an extension worker from Mojo-
kerto showed that the richest families spent about the same on daily consump-
tion as most others. This emphasis on sameness and equality carries over
into the festive cycle. Households sponsor ritual meals called slametan to cele-
brate harvests, promote health, and win the ancestors blessings, the host inviting
the heads of the nearest 8 or 9 households to attend. The accent is on reci-
procity. For a big celebration men make a standard cash donation, women
contribute labour and fixed amounts of rice; at their own slametans they expect
an exact return. Major events like weddings and circumcisions involve most
people in the village; huge amounts of goods and cash change hands. For the
wedding of the headmans daughter in 1993 celebrated on a large but not
exceptional scale over three tons of rice and 2000 coconuts were donated,
each donation scrupulously recorded in a ledger. There is an expectation to
contribute, even among the poorest, and an absolute obligation to return.
Each neighbourhood block is patterned by overlapping circles of inter-
feasting households. The religious and social aspects of the slametan cycle
are closely interwoven, the symbolism of the slametan representing a synthesis
of diverse religious traditions: very roughly, pantheism, orthodox Islam and
ancestor worship, which the guests adhere to in different degrees. The meal
therefore creates a constituency based on a residential pattern that integrates
people of different religious orientation, sometimes even different faiths, in a
common ritual endeavour (Beatty 1996). Larger-scale slametans for up to fifty
households are held in prayer-houses on Muslim holy days, and there is an
annual village slametan in which every household participates.
All this contrasts with the standard picture of the slametan as a mere house-
hold ritual, and of village life as an aggregation no more of such ritually
self-referring domestic units:

For the abangan [nominally Muslim peasant] the basic social unit to which nearly
all ritual refers is the household a man, his wife and his children ... There is no
organic religious community, strictly speaking, among the abangans: in contemporary
Modjokuto at least, there is only a set of separate households geared into one another
like so many windowless monads, their harmony preordained by their common
adherence to a single tradition (C. Geertz 1960:128).

In contrast, I argue, the feasting group is one critical element of social structure
above the household. The fact that it is recruited ego-centrically and overlaps
with similar groupings makes it no less crucial: its great religious and economic

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Feeling your Way in Java 63

significance bears this out. And, of course, it hardly needs saying that permanence
or corporateness is not an essential feature of a system of groups. So the Nuer
have taught us.
Besides such ritual gatherings, there are also a number of occasional groups,
of a kind found in many cognatic societies, drawing on the kindred as well as
the neighbourhood: harvesting and planting groups, housebuilding parties,
and so forth. None of these has the religious endorsement or immediate, per-
sonal (as opposed to permanent, corporate) significance of the slametan group.
In contrast to the picture offered in Geertzs classic study, The Religion of
Java, religious life in Banyuwangi is, primarily, a matter of community: without
the community most slametans simply could not happen; reflexively, their
celebration, in a Durkheimian sense, creates community. Also significant for
my argument is the fact that the slametan is intended to foster certain social
sentiments, especially feelings of rukun, meaning social harmony and mutuality.
The slametan cycle comprises a ritual economy that embraces every part
of the village. But there are other ways in which exchanges between households
undermine boundaries and weave ties of indebtedness, kinship, and affection
across the community: child borrowing, informal adoption, frequent divorce
and remarriage within the village are only some of these. As I have argued
elsewhere (Beatty 2002), in contrast to the apparent fixity and distinctness of
physical households (or houses: umah refers indifferently to the building or
the domestic group; there is no separate term for family), what we find in
almost every sphere of Javanese life in ritual, kinship, language use, spatial
orientation, and mystical doctrine are instances of transformation and mobi-
lity, formulated in cultural models of changing places. (Two of many possible
examples: the practice of marrying the sister of a deceased wife is called changing
the mat and the pillow; retirement feasts enact a changing of generations by
lining up each cohort and dousing them with water.) Social structure, as rural
Javanese see it, is repetitive and modular. It is also like a segmentary system
capable of expansion or contraction.
On various occasions, the internal boundaries of the community are dis-
solved as households merge into larger structures. For a wedding or circumcision,
party walls are removed and facades are lifted out like the fronts of dolls
houses. Participants move among adjacent front rooms like shoppers among
the mock rooms of a furniture store, while unseen at the back, kitchen walls
are raised to create vast catering areas with up to a dozen hearths. Geertzs
windowless monads merge into a larger organism.
Between these two extremes the inward-looking household and the festive,

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

64 andrew beatty

department store model of communal living there are many degrees. And
this, surely, is what we mean by community: a flexible, unbounded entity with
ritual, economic, and social significance, existing between families and crossing
thresholds. In contrast to the all-or-nothing view that sees only inclusive tribal
structures or isolated nuclear-family households, Bayu exemplifies this im-
portant if necessarily amorphous form of sociality. And it is a denial of
community that has led scholars to overvalue the nuclear family household,
and even to see Java as belonging to Lvi-Strausss category of house-based
societies (a question discussed in Headley 1987). In 1950s semi-urban Java,
Hildred Geertz was able to assert that, The nuclear family is the basic kinship
unit in Javanese society; it is a close in-group, set off physically and socially
from the rest of the kinsmen (H. Geertz 1974:253). In rural Banyuwangi we
can see that this is not really the case: neither family nor religion stops at the
front door. The household, rather than being the cell of social organization,
is a visible point of reference, a usefully vague concept housed in a flimsy
structure, subsumed within a broader, if equally indeterminate, social field.
This is a finding of some significance in itself, given Javas prominence in dis-
cussions of cognatic kinship, socialization, the family, and the sociology of
religion. But I want to press the argument further and rejoin structure and
sentiment at this higher level of community. Once we admit the reality of the
community and its penetration of the household, we gain a new perspective
on the Javanese village ethos and its oft-noted air of casual intimacy, its continual
hum of laid-back sociability. It hardly needs saying that I am not making a
case for a bounded corporate village or any other concrete community to
which discrete households belong. Quite the reverse: concepts of neighbour-
liness, an ethic of mutuality, patterns of visiting, extra-domestic kin ties, and
ritual obligations activate overlapping constituencies to create the loose-woven
fabric of sociability that constitutes everyday village life. In all these respects,
emotion (how one feels, how one wants or expects others to feel in particular
situations, how one characterizes or names a situation) serves as a practical
guide and figures prominently in how one thinks about social relations. Lacking
a reliable and unambiguous social map with clear boundaries and identifiable
landmarks (those corporate groups or Balinese charters), lacking an explicit
set of rules or taboos, one must, as it were, feel ones way.
A stroll through the village quickly shows why. There is in Java, as many
ethnographers have commented, a studied casualness in village life a sort
of willed randomness combined with a dislike of cliques (Jay 1969:200). In
his book, Javanese Villagers, Robert Jay even claimed that sheer physical proxi-

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Feeling your Way in Java 65

mity was the fundamental principle of association (Jay 1969:216). Who do

you talk to? Whoever happens to be passing by. Who gets pulled in to assist
at household rituals? Whoever is at a loose end in neighbouring yards. With
its diaries, appointments, and programmed socializing, the life of Western
middle-class urbanites is about as far from this easygoing non-pattern as could
be imagined. But even in Indonesian terms, life in the Javanese village would
rate as informal. For months I had the impression that there were no purpose-
ful visits outside of Idul Fitri. Not that people dont drop in: rather, their coming
and going is barely remarked as others make way for them or drift off without
acknowledgment. Mostly one just happens by: no need to announce ones
arrival or excuse oneself on leaving.
The focus of these transient gatherings, as Jay observed, is less often a house
than some open, neutral space, in front of a store or next to a well-trodden
path, which guarantees a constant flow of people in and out of the ensemble.
Women with babies often stand outside talking to each other or calling across
to other women spreading out rice to dry. Passers-by are asked where they
are going or half-heartedly invited in. One drifts over for a word and then
moves on.
Unlike neighbouring Bali, where compounds are walled and the bound-
ary between inside and outside clearly divides domestic from public space
(Geertz & Geertz 1975: 46 7, 159), houses in Banyuwangi are packed close
together, their split-bamboo walls are moveable as the family expands; and
their boundaries are porous.5 Even the front room of a house is, conceptually,
not quite inside; it is the inner, enclosed room which is called jerumyah, mean-
ing within the house. This is where the family sleeps and where the rice
goddess, Dewi Sri, is kept, tucked in a flap of the wall.
The front room is semi-public: it opens onto the path and to casual callers.
And fitting this blurring of public and private spaces, the arrangement of fur-
niture allows degrees of presence. The man of the house sits at a small marble-
topped coffee table, facing out. A caller who stays a while sits facing him.
Others who drop by out of curiosity or idleness will sit on the big planca, a
platform the size of a double bed, looking on, occasionally contributing a
comment or joining in a laugh, but not fully participating. If a female caller ar-
rives, a male onlooker will move to the coffee table to allow her to sit on the
platform. The woman of the house then disappears to the kitchen to prepare
more coffee.
Nobody is admitted with anything less than gracious acceptance, which
is to say, they take their place, minimally acknowledged, with a sense of total

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

66 andrew beatty

right to be there or to leave with a nod when they feel like it. Even if you
are discussing some private matter, a business deal or dispute, a caller simply
settles in with no sense of discomfort. I used to sit up with the village mystics
until the early hours being coached in esoteric philosophy. Non-initiates, seeing
the light burning, would call in and have a coffee and the discussion would
continue, only slightly disguised, while the guests wagged their heads politely.
They would often fall asleep at the table while the mystics rambled on about
reincarnation or the Descent of the Absolute.
Modern concrete houses, which now make up about a third of the village,
have factory furniture sofas and armchairs uncongenial to this sort of
graded presence. There is no equivalent to the platform and no possibility of
hovering or discreetly shifting position as new callers arrive: you are either
in or out. Worse still, males and females are obliged to sit together, which for
Javanese feels awkward. (Feeling awkward, variously expressed, is an explicit
reason for changing course or getting out of a situation.) The usual solution is
either to have two sets of furniture which means two competing conversa-
tions or to turn the kitchen into a parlour and leave the front room for show.
The easy coming and going that I have described enacts the pre-eminent
value in village life, which is rukun, social harmony (Jay 1969:66; H. Geertz
1961:149). Rukun begins with the household or rather with the well-ad-
justed, spiritually-balanced householder in regular touch with the ancestors
and guardian spirits and radiates outwards to the neighbours left and right,
the block, the village, and the nation. Rukun models the integration of micro-
cosm and macrocosm. The mystics have a formula for it, as they do for most
things: rukun in the person (literally the neighbours of the soul), in the house,
in the village, and in the state.6
It all sounds very inclusive and orderly; but this integrative principle operates
successfully because people dont generally range far beyond the neighbour-
hood unless it is to call on a fairly restricted circle of kin and associates scattered
elsewhere in the village.7 The dogma of the house being open to all and sundry
depends on tact in not treating it too seriously.
Here, again, social sentiments play a constructive part. For ones sense of
the invisible boundaries within the village community, and of degrees of soli-
darity and difference among similar households, is typically expressed in terms
of feelings of reluctance, embarrassment, respect and so on. As Myers writes
of a very different society, the emotions define and orient Pintupi in their
social world (Myers 1986:126). In the Javanese case, that orientation is both
conceptual and spatial. In the absence of named groups it is a sense of social

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Feeling your Way in Java 67

tact embodied in shame, reluctance, and so forth which guides one through
the village labyrinth to those places one feels pernah, a word denoting the
feeling of being at home, at ease. 8
These same emotions of shame, respect, pernah are said to underlie
different kinds of kin relation.9 Borrowed children settle and establish rela-
tions of pseudo-kinship where they feel most pernah; and it is pernah that
decides where married couples and the elderly-infirm reside. (Whatever the
practical motives of a move, the unanswerable reason sometimes excuse
of feeling pernah is always offered.) The concept recognizes a certain auto-
nomy even in the powerless and acts to limit the interference of others. With
kin seniors, in contrast, one is said to feel reluctance and even fear (H. Geertz
1974; Keeler 1983). So social distance and movement in space are alike governed
by a set of conventionalized feelings. One could put this the other way round:
such feelings are expressed, perhaps experienced, as a physical reticence or
expansiveness (as we might say, He shrank from the ghost.). And if you do
the extremely unnatural thing of asking people about isin, sungkan, pernah,
etc., they generally define them in terms of where you can or cannot go, or
whose house youd be happy to enter on a particular occasion; they define
social emotions in terms of moral constraints on movement in space.
Here is part of a conversation I had with a village elder that illustrates this
very clearly. I had asked him to clarify the differences between certain emo-

Lets suppose [he said] I was passing your house and just dropped in, without
announcing myself: I just walk in. And it so happens that youre holding a slametan.
I didnt know, of course. So Im isin (ashamed/embarrassed). Difficult to turn back,
but difficult to stay. Thats what youd call kemisinan [inadvertantly shamed, caught
out]. Its not a question of wrong (salah), but shame. And it arises from a false step.
Shame means being out of step with others, doing something that jars with the
arrangements or rules of others or yourself.

This excerpt illustrates several things: (1) a distinction, often underlined in

Javanese thinking, between inherent badness or wrongness (that of a thief or
adulterer) and a social infraction; (2) the attachment of shame and related
emotions to such infractions; (3) the connection with being in the right place
at the right time; and (4) the emphasis on social harmony, which means being
in step with others. It is also significant that the speaker should choose as his
example a slametan, since it is precisely such feasts that create community
and define the households place within it.

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

68 andrew beatty

Slametan guest lists or ritual constituencies are not neatly bounded they
often include someone who happens to be around, out of place, grateful and
a little embarrassed though, as ego-centric, residential groups, they are fairly
consistent in scope. But they are not exclusive in principle, unlike, say, an
ancestor cult or a lineage system. As the example shows, it is your own sense
of social tact, of shame and so forth, that limits your participation, rather
than there being a rule of exclusion. Indeed, you are inevitably called in as
you pass by; but you politely decline, saying, Yes, Ill say a prayer for you.
May your wish be granted! the wish, for good health or success in business,
being the ostensible purpose of the slametan.
The feasting round is fairly regular: slametans are held in one or other house
in the neighbourhood at least twice a week; and since people are constantly
moving about the village, homeward from the fields or river, on their way to
the mosque, or just drifting about, one has to know how to fend off the many
invitations to drop in some sincere, some half-hearted or, having inadvis-
edly dropped in, to withdraw without giving offence. Naturally, in navigating
this gentle minefield the ethnographer is apt to blunder, though people are
too nice ever to let on: their pleasure at your arrival covers your embarrassment.
And I noticed this when others were similarly caught out. This is the way in
village Java: to make your guest, however clumsy, always feel pernah, at home.
If embarrassment, in this example, concerns a faux pas, a breach of decorum
rather than a moral infraction, it should be said that for Javanese the spheres
of moral action, aesthetic judgment, and etiquette overlap far more than they
do in the contemporary West. The social order, which etiquette sustains and
the social emotions make personally meaningful, is a moral order, a mani-
festation of the way things are and are meant to be, somewhat like, though
less rigid than, dharma in Hindu society.
So while Javanese folklore and mythology contain plenty of figures who
are both clumsy and decent, or polite and vicious, in daily practice judgments
of manners and aesthetics tend to be tinged with moral appraisal. The opposite
of good, apik, is not bad, for which no separate word exists, but lk, ugly/
bad. Bad manners give offence and disrupt social harmony. A refined person,
one who knows his or her place in the scheme of things, would not commit
a social blunder. A sense of shame or reluctance (or what this practically en-
tails) would alert them to the impropriety of a given situation; which is one
reason why, as Keeler writes, the acquisition of isin [shame] is thought by
Javanese to be the crucial element in a childs emotional development (Keeler

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Feeling your Way in Java 69

I have suggested that the ethic of keeping open house is qualified by peoples
sense of propriety and social sensitivity, glossed as embarrassment and reluct-
ance, which set limits to their movements. Since people do not generally talk
about such things, having no need to, one can easily be unaware of them. Ones
initial sense of nobody visiting, since everything is so informal, soon gives way
to a sense of everybody visiting, of a decorous free-for-all. But this, too, is misleading.
A womans range, in particular, is quite restricted; and if block A overlaps
B and B overlaps C, it would be unusual and awkward, outside of feasts, for
a woman in A to call into C. One day there was a commotion in a nearby
house cluster when a civet cat ran through the village, pursued by children.
With our usual lack of Javanese cool, we leaped up to go and see what was
happening, but our neighbour, equally curious, wouldnt come. She confided
that she had never visited some of the houses that were less than a stones
throw away and couldnt make this the first occasion. Isin, was her simple
word of explanation. She would be embarrassed to go.
Another young woman who had recently married out of the neighbourhood,
though only a hundred yards away, felt unable to ask for help when she went
suddenly into labour. She staggered in painful silence along the path home
to her mother, hoping no one would see. It was not that her new neighbours
wouldnt have helped her, or would have been indifferent to her plight; rather,
she would have felt compromised in her display of weakness before people
with whom she did not yet feel pernah.
A woman who marries into a different part of the village, say quarter of a
mile away, more or less ceases to have regular contact with the neighbourhood
in which she grew up, and she might visit her family less than once a week.
This is almost true of men, too, though their feasting duties tend to carry
them further afield. The casual and purposeless nature of social calls, the drift-
ing in and out, is only possible among neighbours or people living on your
normal routes through the village. Those who marry into other villages ef-
fectively renounce their kin. Again, feelings of reluctance and embarrassment
are said to constrain them in venturing out.
Now, as I have said, the same sentiments which restrain and guide move-
ment about the village are interwoven in the narrower field of kinship. And
again, typically, discussions of kinship sentiment involve position.
Here is another male villager talking about respect:
Suppose my son-in-law called in for something and I was sitting here. He wouldnt
want to join me at the table; hed sit over there, on the platform.
Why not?

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

70 andrew beatty

Respect. Or suppose he was sitting with you when I called in; I wouldnt sit down
next to him. Id make an excuse and go.

Now there are two ways of understanding such scenarios. The usual way is
to regard the emotion word, respect or reluctance, as labelling a distinct
internal feeling which is learned by socialization routines in childhood. The
conventional behaviour expresses this feeling. A person confronted with a
senior kinsman or affine feels respect and bows, moves aside or whatever.
A different way, which I want to pursue here, would be to make no assump-
tions about the priority of feelings in the sequence of action, or indeed about
what such feelings are or how they are constituted. Instead, if we concentrate
on the ingredients of the situation we can define respect as the adoption of a
position that corresponds to the relative status of the son-in-law and father-
in-law: a harmonizing of levels in accordance with seniority. Likewise, in the
earlier example of the uninvited guest, the label shame stands not for some
internal state corresponding to our folk psychology of the emotions; it en-
codes a scenario in which one is out of step with others and makes a tactical
withdrawal. Conversely, your hosts do their best to regularize the faux pas
by minimizing the effect of your disruption, as it were making a collective
shuffle to synchronize your false step.
This may seem to contradict everything that I have said so far, about emo-
tions guiding and restraining movement within the village; but only if we
stick to our received view of emotions as primarily internal feelings that are
expressed or manifested in behaviour.
Let me sum up so far: I have presented a view of village life in which what
goes on between and among households is at least as significant as what goes
on within them - that an interplay of levels is key to understanding Javanese
social structure; and that emotions, in the expanded sense illustrated in this
essay (as discursive justifications, reasons, and excuses; social antennae; prac-
tical guides to the social map; monitors of comportment), play a structuring
role in determining levels of inclusion. Now you might draw the conclusion
that structurally, anything goes. But there are limits: and this brings me to a
paradox at the heart of Javanese social structure. For undermining the emphasis
on social harmony is a competitive impulse that threatens to break through
and tear it apart.
That avid equality which I mentioned earlier a determination to eat, build,
and celebrate on the same scale as everyone else depends not just on dis-
cretion but on a more or less constant effort to keep up with, or better, outdo,

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Feeling your Way in Java 71

the Joneses. Unggul-unggulan, the desire to stand out, is deplored; but com-
petitive envy, iren-irenan, is common enough, and freely enough admitted to.
Indeed it almost rates as a kind of civic pride, a collective vice counterpointing
the official virtue of rukun, social harmony. One village Kemiren is even
said to owe its name to this half-vaunted, half-hidden undercurrent of social
life. Hence, when one house gets a ceiling fan, or a blue-screened television
with folding doors, all must have one, even if there is no electricity to power
them; and when one parent sponsors an all-night puppet show for a sons
circumcision, so do the next half dozen until a greater and gaudier celebra-
tion raises the stakes or changes the tune.
Challenge is a key element of local one has to call it low culture: whip-
ping contests in which each man stands rigid and suffers the lash before in-
flicting it on his opponent; dance parties at which guests trade insults in rhyme;
wedding fights in which an old man and woman from each side are paid to
biff each other over the head like Punch and Judy. People tell stories of docile,
peace-loving men prodded into rage by being challenged to tweak the noses
of equally quiet neighbours with whom they were enjoying a coffee. And the
dark side of these contests is the unceasing war of sorcerers, whose missiles
fly back and forth over rooftops like tracer bullets through the night sky, killing
off rivals and blighting their crops.
Many of these wars are fought by proxies, often entertainers who are pitted
against each other in marathon contests. The most spectacular of these is the
angklung caruk, in which two percussion orchestras try to outplay each other
at the same time (Wolbers 1987). Each tries to steal the opponents tune, playing
it louder and with cleverer variations, while supporters try to put off the other
side, mocking and shouting abuse, pointing their behinds at them, drowning
them with cheers.
Once again, thanks to Bateson we have a good technical term for this kind
of competitive interaction: schismogenesis. Symmetrical schismogenesis (the
other kind need not concern us) pits like against like, escalating to the point
of breakdown. The consequences can be serious or playful, sometime both.
Thus a nuclear arms race ends in Mutually Assured Destruction; a Javanese
music-fest in a kind of good-humoured chaos.

Schismogenesis in Java and Bali

Bateson first identified the pattern among the Iatmul of New Guinea, be-
lieving it to be a fundamental type of social behaviour reflecting what he called
a basically human tendency towards cumulative personal interaction (1972:

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

72 andrew beatty

85). Schismogenic performances are found in many Indonesian societies

Nias, for example, used to have competitive feasts, like potlatches, at which
the loser became the victors slave (Beatty 1992). Bateson hoped to develop
his theory in Bali; but this was his sad conclusion at the end of two years
fieldwork: Schismogenic sequences were not found in Bali (1972:84). He
found this absence so striking, so ethnographically singular, that he and Mead
looked to patterns of childrearing to discover how the universal tendency
had become muted. The key was in the kinds of sequences mentioned earlier:
the woman with boy, tantalizing and refusing interaction. And this avoidance
of climax is also (cockfights and raids notwithstanding), Clifford Geertzs
defining feature of social life and the arts in Bali.
Geertz explains it by an orientation to the present, a denial of motion or
transformation: everything must be fixed in a motionless eternity. Bateson
relates it to an overwhelming concern with social harmony, a desire to main-
tain the system as a steady state. Now this, as we have seen, is also an over-
whelming Javanese concern; and yet here in Banyuwangi, literally a swim
from Bali, we find groups of normally placid villagers out of their heads in
their efforts to destroy their rivals with music. And as if to underline the
paradox their orchestras and tunes are Balinese.
Where, then, does the comparison leave us? Simply with this: If Balinese
social life at least in its familiar presentation lacks schismogenesis (not all
competition which Bali has in abundance is schismogenic), Java is haunted
by it. A famous example, known to every schoolchild, concerns the Javanese
alphabet. Arranged in the customary sequence (ha na ca ra ka ... ) the recitation
of the alphabet means: There were two messengers, quarrelling with each
other, they were equally strong, [and therefore fought] till they both died
(Koentjaraningrat 1985: 27; interpolation in original). The alphabet story, which
literally spells out the meaning of schismogenesis, is incorporated into the
legend of Ajisaka, Javanese culture hero and bringer of civilization.
Fieldwork threw up many such examples. The mothers of new born babies
may not meet for three months or else one of the babies would sicken and die;
opposite sex twins are given a ritual wedding, turning dangerous rivals into
spouses; when two youngest offspring marry, they fight through the proxies
of an old man and woman (the aforementioned Punch and Judy); agnatically
related cousins may not marry: if they do, one of the spouses relatives will die.
In all these cases, there is a mystical heating up, panas-panasan, which people
symbolize by rubbing their hands together, as if equality or equivalence in-
evitably meant friction, leading to one or other party being destroyed. Recall

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Feeling your Way in Java 73

the avoidance patterns mentioned earlier. A father may not sit with his son
hosts are always careful to place them at separate tables. This is glossed as
respect. But were they to be seated together there would be an overheating.
Why? Because a son replaces his father; in some sense people insist they
are the same and therefore cannot occupy the same space.10
Sameness is dangerous. A son should resemble his mother; a daughter her
father (physically, though not, of course, in gender type). In Banyuwangi,
sons are named after their mothers and daughters after their fathers to stress
the divergence, to give it force. If they happen to resemble the same sex parent,
they are ritually sold to a neighbour, who becomes their adoptive parent. So
behind the to-ing and fro-ing of children, which we innocently took to be an
expression of mutuality, an instance of changing places, lurks the threat of
competition and breakdown: schismogenesis.
What is it about sameness that so threatens social stability? Nothing, as
long as it is kept outside the bounds of the family. Within it, there must be a
clear pattern of seniority, a demarcation of roles. Significantly, there is no
age-neutral term for siblings; and even rice terraces preserve the birth order
of a sibling set, since the topmost terrace goes to the oldest sibling, and the
lowest to the youngest. Within the household, seating and seniority are care-
fully observed, and as the old parents retire and withdraw from public life,
they slowly retreat to the rear part of the house; they ngalah, concede to the
juniors in a reversal of authority (which is not, as such, an erosion of difference
or an equalization).
Rules of precedence are clear; but in a village where people marry endo-
gamously and frequently and where non-agnatic cousins are favoured
spouses, it is difficult to keep track and mistakes are made or risks taken.
Since the bounds of the family are constantly being revised, as house and
household change shape, danger lurks in the structure, waiting to erupt. When
I collected genealogies and pored over them with people, many deaths were
explained as resulting from anomalous marriages and overheating. The very
modularity and flexibility of the system exposes people to danger as unchecked
combinations arise.
Fluid and egalitarian, with its emergent groupings theoretically equal but
vying for prestige, Java flirts with schismogenesis in its popular arts and pursues
it covertly in sorcery. But the hazards of equality are offset by rukun and rela-
tivism. (Rukun mutes where relativism displaces competition.) Among close
kin, equality is, literally, outlawed.

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

74 andrew beatty

In an attempt to understand the place of emotion in Javanese collective
life I have argued for an expanded understanding of social sentiments one
which gets away from a psychologistic and developmental model and permits
an exploration of a structuring role for emotion both within and beyond the
family. This has enabled me, I hope, to capture something of the emergent
and dynamic aspect of Javanese village life. In particular, I have highlighted
the pragmatic uses of emotions within a social field and the emotional cross-
currents (evident in schismogenesis) that test and define its structure. My
approach goes very much against the grain. If anywhere is a society com-
posed of look-alike, discrete domestic units Geertzs windowless monads
it is rural Java or so we have been led to believe; and if anywhere has
cultivated the inner life of the psyche over public expression la Bali, that
too, surely, is Java. Yet my experience of village life continually, if indirectly,
contradicted this picture; and much can be gained by looking afresh. Let the
last word, then, go to Pak Rayis, the elder who taught me much about Java-
nese life and who often used to end his musings thus: Im not saying Im
necessarily right, Pak Andrew, because there are many ways of seeing the
same thing. But, what do you think: how do things stand for you now? Nar-
rower or broader?
I am grateful to Eric Hirsch and Mercedes Garcia de Oteyza for their comments
on a draft of this paper and to four anonymous Ethnos reviewers for their de-
tailed criticisms.
1. To which he adds the following definition: sentiment an organized system of
emotional tendencies centred about some object (Radcliffe-Brown 1948:234).
2. Homans and Schneider claimed they had found an efficient cause for the prevalence
of mbd over fzd marriage among patrilineal systems in the affectionate relation
typically obtaining between maternal uncle and sisters son, suggesting that Where
a man finds love in one generation, he will find it in the next (1955:38). In matri-
lineal systems, they argued, the pattern of sentiments was reversed, the f and fz
were the indulgent figures, therefore the fzd was the preferred spouse. Rodney
Needham countered that only categorically prescribed unions had overall structural
consequences: sentiments were neither here nor there (1962:423).
3. Many Southeast Asian societies are, of course, rather tightly structured; and the
term should not be taken to signify a scientific class, as it once was, merely an ini-
tial directing of attention towards peasant, mostly cognatic, mostly literate socie-
ties. On the (now dated) controversy over this issue, see essays collected in Evers

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Feeling your Way in Java 75

4. Keeler (1983) has devoted an illuminating essay to this very question, but his
field south-central Java is sufficiently different from Banyuwangi to permit a
different emphasis. For Keeler, stage fright or shame occurs when status is
compromised (status being largely constituted in personal encounters). Keelers
analysis is, nonetheless, compatible with that offered here.
5. The settlement patterns and intensity of social contact among people native
to Banyuwangi (the so-called Osing Javanese) differ from the sprawling villages
of incomers and Javanese further west. In certain respects this limits the generaliza-
bility of my findings.
6. Rukun and similar social values have been heavily promoted, sometimes violently
imposed, in the authoritarian Indonesian (and before that, Dutch colonial) state
though they are not, of course, the inventions of the State. In his study of
Balinese political violence, Robinson reminds us that a traditional harmonious
ideal of the social order often serves to mask a history of conflict and oppression
(Robinson 1995:3067).
7. This is not to say that ones social universe is described by the village. I am
referring here to the daily round of casual visiting dropping in for a chat, to
borrow sugar or visit the sick. Of course, as peasants, farm labourers, construction
workers, and petty traders, and as pilgrims and political activists, people also
roam further afield and engage in different sorts of social visiting. Such encounters
across sharper social boundaries are usually more formal and rule-bound; they
may be subject to different ideological pressures and draw upon different value
systems, though clearly there are overlaps. For example, Idul Fitri visits to vil-
lage kin and non-local notables or senior kin are alike seen as a paying of respect
and begging of forgiveness or cultivation of rukun, the external visits differing
mainly in degree of formality.
8. It is worth emphasizing that feelings and personal/physical orientation, as de-
scribed here, are not primarily linked to a concrete sense of place (as, for example,
in a fixed sense of where one is permitted to go or in a symbolic division of
space); rather, they are relative to situation and the presence of others. Just as
the slametan creates community and mutuality but is, in most cases, deliberately
vague and non-local in its symbolic references (Beatty 1999:51), so one finds
ones bearings in a fluid social field rather than within, or by means of, a fixed
and stable locality. Again, the contrast with Bali (but also with many other Indonesian
societies) is striking. Thus, according to Geertz and Geertz (1975:138), the intimate
connection between physical space and social groupings is a general characteristic
of Bali. And cf. Boon (1977:100) If pressed to define the central Indonesian
notion of adat [custom] in its specifically Balinese context, one might say it is
dharma attached to space.
9. In the Banyuwangi dialect of Javanese (Jawa Osing), pernah has two unrelated
meanings, fortuitously linked in my analysis: (i) kin relation, as in Pernah paran
rika ambi wong iku? How are you related to that person? (ii) to feel at home,
comfortable (Hasan Ali 2002).
10. Formal avoidance relations a somewhat different matter from the milder, kin-
based avoidance pattern referred to here are a common means of preventing
conflict progressing into something serious. When two people sing nyapa (Osing
dialect: dont say hello) they peg their hostility at a certain level. Others recognize

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

76 andrew beatty

this negative relationship and respect its norms. This extremely common solu-
tion to schismogenesis a rich source of anecdote and humour deserves a
paper of its own.

Abu-Lughod, Lila & Catherine A. Lutz (eds). 1990. Language and the Politics of Emo-
tion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Barth, Fredrik. 1993. Balinese Worlds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Bateson, Gregory. 1972. Bali: The Value System of a Steady State. Steps to an Ecology
of Mind. St. Albans: Paladin.
Bateson, Gregory & Margaret Mead. 1942. Balinese Character: A Photographic Analy-
sis. New York: New York Academy of Sciences.
Beatty, Andrew. 1992. Society and Exchange in Nias. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
. 1996. Adam and Eve and Vishnu: Syncretism in the Javanese Slametan. JRAI, 2:
. 1999. Varieties of Javanese Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
. 2002. Changing Places: Relatives and Relativism in Java. JRAI, 8:469691.
. 2005. Emotions in the Field: What Are We Talking About? JRAI, 11.
Benedict, R. 1934. Patterns of Culture. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Bock, Philip K. 1980. Rethinking Psychological Anthropology. New York: W.H. Freeman.
Boon, James A. 1977. The Anthropological Romance of Bali 15971972. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Evers, Hans-Dieter (ed.). 1980. Sociology of South-East Asia: Readings on Social Change
and Development. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
Geertz, Clifford. 1960. The Religion of Java. Glencoe: The Free Press.
. 1973a. Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight. In The Interpretation of Cultures.
New York: Basic Books.
. 1973b. Person, Time, and Conduct in Bali. In The Interpretation of Cultures. New
York: Basic Books.
Geertz, Hildred. 1961.The Javanese Family. Glencoe: The Free Press.
. 1974 [1959]. The Vocabulary of Emotion: A Study of Javanese Socialization Pro-
cesses. In Culture and Personality, edited by Robert A. Levine. Chicago: Aldine.
Geertz, Hildred & Clifford Geertz. 1975. Kinship in Bali. Chicago: Chicago Univer-
sity Press.
Hasan Ali. 2002. Kamus bahasa daerah Using-Indonesia. Banyuwangi: Pemerintah
Kabupaten Banyuwangi, Jatim.
Headley, Stephen C. 1987. The Body as a House in Javanese Society. In De la hutte
au palais: socits maison en Asie du Sud-Est insulaire, edited by C. Macdonald.
Paris: ditions CNRS.
Heelas, Paul. 1986. Emotion Talk across Cultures. In The Social Construction of Emotions,
edited by Rom Harr. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Hobart, M. 1990. Who Do You Think You Are? The Authorized Balinese. In Localizing
Strategies: Regional Traditions of Ethnographic Writing, edited by R. Fardon. Edin-
burgh: Scottish Academic Press.
Hollan, Douglas. 2001. Developments in Person-centered Ethnography. In The Psychology
of Cultural Experience, edited by Carmela C. Moore & Holly F. Mathews. Cam-
bridge: Cambridge University Press.

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

Feeling your Way in Java 77

Homans, George C. & David M. Schneider. 1955. Marriage, Authority, and Final
Causes: A Study of Unilateral Cross-cousin Marriage. New York: Free Press.
Howe, Leo. 2001. Hinduism and Hierarchy in Bali. Oxford: James Currey/SAR Press.
Jay, Robert T. 1969. Javanese Villagers: Social Relations in Rural Modjokuto. Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press.
Jensen, Gorden D. & Luh Ketut Suryani. 1992. The Balinese People: A Reinvestigation
of Character. Singapore: Oxford University Press.
Just, Peter. 1991. Going Through the Emotions: Passion, Violence, and Other-control
among the Dou Donggo. Ethos, 19 (3):288312.
Keeler, W. 1983. Shame and Stage Fright in Java. Ethos, 11(3):152165.
Koentjaraningrat. 1985. Javanese Culture. Singapore: Oxford University Press.
Kuper, Adam (ed.). 1977. The Social Anthropology of Radcliffe-Brown. London: Routledge
and Kegan Paul.
Leavitt, John. 1996. Meaning and Feeling in the Anthropology of Emotions. Ameri-
can Ethnologist, 23(3):514539.
Lvi-Strauss, Claude. 1963. Structural Analysis in Linguistics and Anthropology.
Structural Anthropology, 1: 3154. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Levy, Robert I. 1983. Introduction: Self and Emotion. Ethos, 11(3):128134.
. 1994. Person-centered Anthropology. In Assessing cultural anthropology, edited
by R. Borofsky. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Lipset, David. 1980. Gregory Bateson: The Legacy of a Scientist. Englewood Cliffs, N.J:
Prentice Hall.
Lutz, Catherine A. 1988. Unnatural Emotions: Everyday Sentiments on a Micronesian
Atoll and their Challenge to Western Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Mead, Margaret. 1973. Blackberry Winter. London: Angus and Robertson.
Myers, Fred R. 1986. Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self. Berkeley: University of California
Needham, Rodney. 1962. Structure and Sentiment. Chicago: University of Chicago
Ochs, Elinor. 1988. Culture and Language Development: Language Acquisition and Language
Socialization in a Samoan Village. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Radcliffe-Brown, A.R. 1948 [1922]. The Andaman Islanders. Glencoe: The Free Press.
Robinson, Geoffrey. 1995. The Dark Side of Paradise: Political Violence in Bali. Ithaca/
London: Cornell University Press.
Rosaldo, Michelle. 1984. Toward an Anthropology of Self and Feeling. In Culture
Theory, edited by R.A. Shweder & R.A. Levine. Cambridge: Cambridge Univer-
sity Press.
Sapir, Edward. 1949. Culture, Language, and Personality. Berkeley: University of Cali-
fornia Press.
Shweder, Richard A. 1991. Rethinking Culture and Personality Theory. Thinking
Through Cultures. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Spiro, Melford E. 1977. Kinship and Marriage in Burma. Berkeley: University of Cali-
fornia Press.
Sullivan, Gerald. 1999. Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, and Highland Bali. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
Theroux, Paul. 1998. Sir Vidias Shadow. London: Hamish Hamilton.

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)

78 andrew beatty

Warren, Carol. 1993. Adat and Dinas: Balinese Communities in the Indonesian State.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
White, Geoffrey M. 1992. Ethopsychology. In New Directions in Psychological Anthropology,
edited by Theodore Schwartz, Geoffrey M. White & Catherine A. Lutz. Cam-
bridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wierzbicka, A. 1999. Emotions across Languages and Cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Wikan, Unni. 1990. Managing Turbulent Hearts. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Wolbers, Paul. 1987. Account of an Angklung Caruk, July 28, 1985. Indonesia, 43: 6674.

ethnos, vol. 70:1, march 2005 (pp. 5378)