After Theatre: A Critical Analysis of Performance Practices in Bali, and the Problem of Audiences


Natalia Theodoridou

PhD defended at: 

School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London



This thesis examines representations, academic, popular and local, of Balinese performance, live and recorded, and of its audiences. It aims to bring Cultural and Media Studies’ approaches to bear on the study of ‘Balinese theatre,’ refusing to treat theatre as an art form insulated from broader cultural processes, electronic recording and mass mediation. It considers the relationship between practices of studying Balinese performance and recording it for television and ethnographic film or documentary, and indigenous practices of mediation and self-representation. It questions the adequacy of existing approaches by interrogating the conditions under which and the purposes for which Balinese practices and Bali as a whole have been represented as theatre.
Part One of the thesis investigates the summative notions that have been used in the study of Bali in order to encapsulate a complex and unknown entity. It considers the problems of imposing foreign frameworks and notions on the study of Bali and the consequent silencing of Balinese accounts of their own practices.
Part Two shifts from this critical mode of enquiry to case studies of performance practices and their mediation in contemporary Bali, and tries to offer an alternative approach, by asking what is involved in examining these practices once one has moved past the academic compulsion to study them as theatre. It focuses on different modes and contexts of performance in Bali, and considers the ways in which Balinese institutions promote ‘theatre’ as a hallmark of ‘Balinese culture’ or ‘Balineseness’ as a whole. It focuses on the antagonisms between the various roles Balinese assume in representing their practices by juxtaposing commentaries by different groups of people (actors, academics, media professionals, enthusiasts). It therefore attempts not to represent Balinese performance as an object, but to examine a potentially conflicting and incoherent congeries of varied and situated practices of performance.

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