Dynastic Dynamics: Caste and Kinship in Bali Now

Author: 
Boon, James A.
Year: 
1973

     This study is an ethnology of Balinese culture as an integration of flexible social institutions and ideological themes. It is an effort to characterize the dynamic nature of caste and kinship -- especially as regards principles of marriage and lineage -- in Balinese culture. It documents and interprets various structural ambiguities in its optional and essentially unstable lineage-type organization. . . . Yet the ideal Balinese lineage can only be fully understood across the Hindu caste ideology used to legitimize claims of superior rank made by titled kingroups, each of which associates its sacred essence with a particular locality or network of localities in the island's religious landscape. This study, then, analyzes how rules and norms of kinship -- such as birth order ranks, patriparallel cousin marriage, and the will to keep sight of daughters -- relate to the Hindu ideology of occupationally qualified warnas considered as ideal macro-lineages wherein a female or 'consort' principle of descent figures along with a patrilineal one. I try, moreover, to disclose how the distinctive institutions of Bali -- especially the temple system, concepts of sacred space, and provisions of family marriage (lineage endogamy) facilitate the cultural integration of these diverse principles and values.
     The form of the dissertation is an ethnography, actually an inter-related series of ethnographic vignettes, which illustrate in succinct fashion 'problems' in Balinese culture. Descriptions are based on fieldwork predominantly in southwest Bali in 1971-72, with emphasis on certain modern developments: transformations of classical hypergamous inter-lineage relationships into contemporary egalitarian ones, revitalization of traditional high-ranking Sudra title-caste claims and their organization into a genuine politico-religious movement, etc. Such developments enable us to better gauge the essential features of kinship and caste characteristic of classical, colonial, and post-colonial Bali as well.

Advisor(s): 
David M. Schneider (chair), Milton B. Singer, Paul Friedrich
Department: