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Hanging without a Rope

Narrative Experience in Colonial and Postcolonial Karoland

Mary Margaret Steedly

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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Pädagogik


When Mary Steedly went to North Sumatra, Indonesia, she intended to study the curing practices of Karo Batak spirit mediums, the gurus who keep a community in touch with its ancestors. She became fascinated by the stories these women and men told of their encounters with spirits in the ritual arena and on the borders of the everyday social world. In these stories, Karo mediums conveyed their sense of historical out-of-placeness, which they described as "hanging without a rope," in Indonesia's state-proclaimed Age of Development. Based on the author's three years of fieldwork in urban and rural Karoland, this engaging and sympathetic account focuses on issues of experience, memory, and narrative plausibility. Steedly approaches mediums' stories not simply as reservoirs of information about "what happened" at a particular moment, but as interested efforts to map a pathway across the shifting landscape of historical memory.
Over the past century Karoland has been the scene of colonial conquest, Christian conversion, commercial agricultural development, military occupation, reolution, migration, and modernization. Storeis of spirit encounters, Steedly argues, provide an alternative, "unofficial" perspective on the historical transformation of the Karo social world. In addition to her rich ethnographic material, she draws on feminist theories of subjectivity, William Faulkner's reconstructions of personal and collective memory, and current anthropological explorations of the politics of representation to open the ethnographic imagination to historical eventfulness.
Mary Margaret Steedly is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University.

Originally published in 1993.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Misdemeanor, False etymology, Piracy, Betel, Tattoo, Incest, Anonymity, Suharto, Rience, Criticism, Disfigurement, Skepticism, Buddhism, The Other Hand, Internment, In Death, Racism, Resistance movement, Indonesia, Colonialism, Ibid (short story), Storytelling, Distrust, Fraud, Religion, Disadvantage, Cannibalism, Political violence, Brief Encounter, Humiliation, Resentment, Pseudonym, Mediumship, Arisan, Poverty, Sacrilege, Antipathy, The Death of the Author, Unrest, Immorality, Superiority (short story), Exclusion, Pity, Childlessness, Ambiguity, Ruler, Ephemerality, Desertion, Sadness, Vegetable, Dry season, Social exclusion, Short story, The Heathen, Oppression, Disenchantment, Parody, East Sumatra, Narrative, Amateur, Enemy of the state, Poor Things, Xenophobia, Neglect, Banditry, Theft, Refugee, Emptiness, Fill the Void, Begu, Invisible Chains, Kinship, Secret police, Adat, False accusation, Anomie, Drought, Wealth, Clifford Geertz, Metaphorical language, Atheis, Miscegenation, Mount Sibayak, Mourning, Disaster, Evocation, Prejudice, Uncertainty, Berastagi, Warfare, One Piece, Commodity, Cover-up, Free Zone (Scientology), Bribery, Aberrant, Post-structuralism, Corvée, Lumpenproletariat, Lament