Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Balinese live on the island of Bali, in the archipelago country of Indonesia. They speak a language (also called Balinese) which, together with their religion, reflects a Malayo-Polynesian culture influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism. Balinese culture is renowned for its fascinating arts including dance, drama, sculpture and handcrafts. Traditional subsistence focused on wet-rice farming regulated by temple-based irrigation societies. The island has become an important tourist destination in recent years.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Asia --Southeast Asia



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Balinese Collection (OF07) documents, all of them in English, cover a variety of cultural and socioeconomic information three two widely contrasting historical periods. The first is the period prior to the Japanese occupation in 1942 when Bali was part of the Netherlands East Indies colony.  The second is the period from 1940s to early 2000s in which the Balinese, as citizens of the newly founded Indonesian Republic, witnessed political violence and rapid economic transformation.  

Materials from the first period consist of seventeen documents.  Fourteen of these documents were originally published in a large volume titled "Bali: Studies in Life, Thought, and Ritual". The contributors were all employees of the colonial government (with professional training in social science, theology and public administration) who lived in Bali, circa. 1913 -1940. The focus of these works include patterns of Balinese life and society (Swellengrebel 1960, no. 10), religion and organization of village community (Goris 1960, no11; Korn 1960, no. 14; 20), organization of temples (Goris 1960, no. 12; Grader 1960, no. 15; no.16), major holidays, festivals and celebrations (Goris 1960, no. 13; Franken 1960, no. 17), irrigation and farming systems (Grader 1960, no. 18), and position of blacksmiths (Goris 1960, no. 19).  Four of the remaining documents from this period were compiled by anthropologist Jane Belo who conducted fieldwork in Bali in 1931-1939 with the supervision and collaboration of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. Topics covered in Belo's works include religion and festivals (Belo 1953, no. 3; 1949, no. 4), culture and personality (Belo 1936, no. 6) and family life (Belo 1936, no. 7). The last document from this period provides detailed description of the Balinese landscape, family life, community structure, economic activities, and arts (including paintings, songs, dances, dramas, hair styles and clothing) as observed by a famous artist from New York who lived in the island in 1930-1933 (Covarrubias 1938, no. 2).

Documents on the second period represent the works of professional anthropologists who conducted primary fieldwork in different parts of the Bali Island mostly in late 1950s and 1980s-1990s. Three of these documents are by anthropologist Clifford Geertz who discusses social structure (Geertz 1959, no. 9; 1967, no. 24) and socioeconomic change (Geertz 1963, no. 23) at the village level.  The collection also includes a book by Hildred and Clifford Geertz which regards kinship as an integral part of more inclusive cultural patterns and idioms through which the Balinese talk and understand their collective experience in a wide variety of social settings including the household, the community, the workplace, the temple, the market, the farm, the battlefields, the law of court, and the playing field (Geertz and Geertz 1975, no. 25). The last three documents supplement previous studies on Balinese by revisiting established debates relating to dynamics of kinship and class (Ottino 2003, no. 27), role of temples in managing irrigation schemes (Lansing 1987, no. 26), and gender issues in rice cultivation (Jha 2004, no. 28).

For more detailed information on the context of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Adat - customary law - use "LEGAL NORMS (671)"

Bali Aga - original (indigenous) Balinese - use "ETHNIC STRATIFICATION (563)" with "CULTURAL IDENTITY AND PRIDE (186)"

Banjar - settlement unit or hamlet 361 - use "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)" and/or "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

Dadia  - patrilineal descent group - use "KIN RELATIONSHIPS (602)" with "RULE OF DESCENT (611)"

Desa - village community - "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

Klian Banjar - hamlet elder - use "COMMUNITY HEADS (622)"

Krama Banjar - hamlet council - use "COUNCILS (623)"

Origin temples - use "CULT OF THE DEAD (769)" with "CONGREGATIONS (794)"

Seka - voluntary group organized for some particular purpose  - use "COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION (474)" and/or "SODALITIES (575)"

Subak - irrigation society - use "WATER SUPPLY (312)" with "COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION (474)"


Title groups - use "CASTES (564)"

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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