Centre for Global Media and Communications
Before the Media & Film Programme became a separate entity, I was involved in developing contemporary human science theory courses in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology over some twenty years, as well as rethinking regional ethnography courses through an analysis of the hegemonic texts that defined regions, cultures and important issues. I have devised courses on semiotics and ethnographic film. Currently I teach approaches to television and audiences, popular film in maritime South East Asia and Theoretical Issues in Media and Cultural Studies, the core course of the new MA in Critical Media and Cultural Studies and organize the MPhil Research Training Programme.
Since 1990 I have been engaged in building up archives of Indonesian television materials for educational use. This project now has an archive of some 2,000 hours of recordings of cultural broadcasts on Indonesian television, which comprises part of the Balinese and Javanese Research Archive (BAJRA), of which I am director. We are currently working with the leading centres of performing arts in Indonesia to produce a series of audio CDs and DVDs of important performances of music and dance; and also on an archival project to record the works of young choreographers and composers.
Having spent some eight years in Indonesia, mostly in Bali, perhaps unsurprisingly I have a strong interest in performing arts and their mass mediation. With the Balinese singer-dancer, Ni Madé Pujawati, I have developed a series of lecture-performances on aspects of Balinese dance and opera. We are also working on the translation and analysis of a performance of Arja, Balinese dance-opera, in multimedia format.
Professor Mark Hobart's Inaugural Lecture: "A Very Peculiar Practice"
I have worked on Balinese culture and indigenous philosophy, and Indonesian discourses of development, from 1970 until it became difficult to ignore the social consequences of television. The mass media raised ethnographic and theoretical challenges about how to analyze and understand what was happening, which led me to research theatre, television and audiences from the late 1980s. My current research is on public life as performance as the mass media increasingly permeate Indonesian society.
My recent research has been into changes in contemporary mass media in Indonesia. In particular I have been interested in the role of television, radio, print and the Internet in framing public discourse – how Indonesians imagine themselves and others in different media. This is part of a longer-term project on how maritime South East Asians are represented in Euro-American media as against how South East Asians understand themselves and the rest of the world in their media. I am trying to address the problems of over-interpretation of media ‘content’ by looking at intermedia commentary and, through ethnography, at production practices in television stations and newspapers in Central Java and Bali to understand how Indonesians engage with the media in their professional and personal lives.
The current theoretical confusion in media and cultural studies has attracted my long-standing interest in the philosophical problems in the human sciences. For disciplines that began in theoretical critique, media and cultural studies are now remarkably under-theorized and critiques from post-structuralism and elsewhere largely ignored. So I have written about the presuppositions behind ideas of articulation and representation, culture, media and ideas about the human subject.
Another research interest is performance, media and audiences. Since 1988 I have been working on theatre in Bali as the means by which Balinese argued over who they were and their place in the world. Central issues were how audiences understood what was going on and what happened when culture became increasingly mediated by television. This led to a study on regional television and the articulation of ideas of culture in Indonesia. The research raises questions of performativity and practice. It is instructive to consider public life itself as performative and to contrast Euro-American ideas about the function of theatre and performance with Indonesian understandings. There is also a stark contrast between intellectual accounts or reviews of theatre performances and television programmes and the practices and understandings of producers, actors and audiences.
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- South East Asia
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