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A Promised Land that Devours Its Inhabitants. A Study on Balinese Witchcraft in a Catholic Village

MARY, BENEDIKTUS,DENI (2020) A Promised Land that Devours Its Inhabitants. A Study on Balinese Witchcraft in a Catholic Village. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 18 November 2023.


This thesis seeks to develops a close examination of the belief in witchcraft and sorcery (léyak) in the Balinese Catholic village of Palasari, West of Bali. Belief in the study of religion is often treated as unproblematic and generic. If anthropologists tend to show the ‘how’ belief, this thesis argues for various kinds of belief. If anthropologists studying Bali often fall into the trap of essentializing, exoticizing, and generalizing Bali, the success of this thesis lies on showing us the different versions of Bali through the lens of witchcraft and sorcery.

Beginning with the “sorcery” of making, Palasari becomes the battlefield of several agencies who put their spell of ideology and representation on the village. The spell of a promised land which sells its beauty and uniqueness have attracted outsiders and tourists. The spell of witchcraft, as the main focus of this thesis, has been imposed by the locals as a counter-narrative. This thesis tries to trace the aetiology of that narrative of léyak from India to Bali ending in Palasari as a process of demonising women. Despite the absence of religious rituals or objects that could support one’s belief in léyak, the Palasari people maintain their imaginations through stories, gossips, rumours and testimonies. Léyak-stories always emerge in the context of illness narrative, folk-healer’s diagnosis and treatment. Trance-possession as the source of ‘léyak making’ information is mixed with the culture of storytelling and fills the imagination of Palasari. This thesis concludes with a discussion of the contributions narrative theory could make for future research on belief.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Witchcraft belief, illness, narrative
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:19 Nov 2020 09:38

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