The Newsletter 66 Winter 2013

Forgotten cosmopolitanism: revisiting the urban side of Bali

Amanda Achmadi

Through the course of the 20th century, the world’s encounter with the island of Bali and its architectural landscape is profoundly guided by the well-established image of an exotic ‘Balinese’ cultural otherness. Scholars such as Adrian Vickers and Henk Schulte Nordholt have argued that this powerful image is a product of a complex entanglement between colonial knowledge production, an orientalist conception of cultural otherness, the rise of the travel industry, and unfolding local identity politics. And as popular writings on Bali tend to focus on the iconic religious sites, the traditional villages, and the ritual life of the island’s indigenous communities, rural settings are the most referred context when talking about the island’s architectural tradition. The historical and shifting urban environments – the capitals of Bali’s competing pre-colonial royal courts as well as the colonial and subsequently contemporary urban settlements – remain largely unknown. At the same time, these urban realms are the most dramatically changing environments, compensating the calcifying conservation of the ‘villages’ as the island embraces its economic dependence on cultural tourism industry.


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