SOAS University of London

Mark Hobart Inaugural Lecture - A Very Peculiar Practice

Professor Mark Hobart

Date: 26 May 2010Time: 6:30 PM

Finishes: 26 May 2010Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Inaugural Lecture

The lecture illustrates with images and video two apparently quite different instances from the Indonesian archipelago. The first is how the island of Bali, notorious for its war-like and violent population, came to be re-imagined as both an erotic and artistic paradise on earth, exemplified by the brand image of beautiful female dancers. The second is the remarkable – at times astonishing – cultural, religious and political argument in which Indonesians engage one another, most notably through television. The failure to recognize the central role of the mass media in contemporary societies is due in no small part to some very peculiar practices of academia itself. (The title is taken from Andrew Davies’s 1986 BBC comedy series about the workings of a university medical practice:

Mark Hobart joined the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS in 1972 before moving to become a Director of the Centre for Media & Film Studies in 2004.

He has conducted over eight years' research in Indonesia starting with intensive village ethnography, then the study of indigenous philosophy in Bali and, from the late 1980s, theatre and the growth of the Indonesian mass media.  One long-term concern has been the gap between Euro-American frameworks of knowledge and people's understandings of their own cultural and social practices, these latter being argued out inter alia through popular and mass culture, so often disparaged by academics.  The critical analysis of changing social practice has led him from Anthropology and Area Studies to Cultural and Media Studies.  

Since being a founding member of the Department of Anthropology in Bali, Hobart has always worked closely with Indonesian colleagues.  For example, he has headed a documentary programme with the Indonesian Institute of Arts, which now has among the largest collections of television materials in the world, for which he was awarded the Dharma Kusuma (roughly equivalent to the Légion d'honneur) in 1999.  His current work is on Public Life as Performance.

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Professor Mark Hobart's Inaugural Lecture: "A Very Peculiar Practice"

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