Accepted paper:

Ritual offerings in Bali (Indonesia): a beautiful and conflicting parallel economy


Anikó Sebestény (Nanterre University / Pécs University)

Paper short abstract:

The island of Bali is facing massive international tourism, and copes well with the challenges it raises. The local Hindu religion is widely present. Through its costly and beautiful rituals, it creates a parallel economy, redistributing money and preserving strong social and economic bonds.

Paper long abstract:

Hindu Balinese culture produces a profusion of eye-catching colourful offerings and religious ceremonies. Yet tourism has been flooding the island for decades. Tourism can bring wealth and technology. But it can also erode social bonds, create economic, thus social discrepancies, and degrade local religion. Why does it look like these negative effects are rather weak in Bali? Choosing to address the economic side of the question, research shows an interesting entangling of economics and religion. Balinese Hindu religion is not only a way of seeing the world, of perceiving divinity. It includes a long list of rituals that have to be performed, and cost a lot. Balinese live in two parallel economic worlds. One is the touristic and non-religious work world, where they work, earn the money, and count it. The other world is the family, the local community, with costly rituals, where the more you have earned, the more you spend, being grateful to the ancestors and divinities. Thus a parallel economy is created that strongly lowers the disruptive impact of tourism. It redistributes wealth, as those who don't work can do offerings and earn some money. It maintains strong social bonds, as many ceremonies are addressed to community deities (village divinity, common ancestor), and many other ceremonies (weddings, funerals) are just too expensive for a family to pay alone: these ceremonies have to be shared. My research explores these two economic worlds, how they meet, how their boundaries are ritually delimited, and how they sometimes contradict.

panel W120
Economy and ritual