FFC 299

Timo Kaartinen:
Songs of Travel, Stories of Place: Poetics of Absence in an Indonesian Society.
Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia (Academia Scientiarum Fennica). 2010. 207 pp.

ISBN 978-951-41-1052-8 (hardback)

25 euros

This book explores narratives of people who trace their origin to Banda, the famous Nutmeg Islands of Eastern Indonesia. They were displaced from their ancient homeland by the Dutch colonization of Banda in 1621 and carry on their language and traditions in the village described in this study. The Bandanese continue traveling to distant places in pursuit of recognition by their ancestral allies. They bring their past into life through rituals and verbal arts which commemorate absent travelers and anticipate their return.

The expressive genres of the Bandanese force us to ask what counts as history and how people’s own interpretations of world-scale political events shape their predicaments and possibilities of action. This book argues that ethno-history can be a source of exemplary acts which inform collective responses to new circumstances. The folk poetry of the Bandanese is neither a subaltern reaction to colonial contacts and state interventions nor evidence of their hegemonic effects. It places real, historical events in several chronotopic frameworks in which they are relived as memory and given a total meaning as history. By analyzing poetic expressions and their effects on society this book contributes to the efforts of anthropologists to historicize the ethnographic realities they study.

TIMO KAARTINEN received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2001. He teaches social and cultural anthropology at the University of Helsinki and writes about language and culture, performing arts, state-society relations, value systems, ritual, cosmology and time. His most recent fieldwork in 2009 focused on diasporic relations in the Indonesian islands of Maluku.

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