Bali is a battlefield Or the triumph of the imaginary over actuality

  • Mark Hobart University of London


The idea of Balinese culture as a unique, largely timeless, harmonious synthesis of religion, custom and art is remarkably resistant to historical and contemporary evidence to the contrary. Such a hegemonic vision, however imaginary, conveniently underwrites both local politics and tourism, and so national and global capitalism. Against this ideal of Bali-as-Paradise, a critical analysis suggests a quite different metaphor—Bali-as-a-battlefield—in many instances to be more appropriate and accurate. To understand why the Arcadian myth has proven so attractive to both Balinese and foreigners, we need to examine the work done by social imaginaries. Hypostatizing, essentializing, then mythologizing, a largely imaginary monolithic ‘Balinese culture’ delivers a docile population which not only accepts, but enthusiastically embraces, their increasing alienation and their subjection to the political and economic forces of capitalism.


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How to Cite
HOBART, Mark. Bali is a battlefield Or the triumph of the imaginary over actuality. Jurnal Kajian Bali (Journal of Bali Studies), [S.l.], v. 7, n. 1, p. 187-212, may 2017. ISSN 2580-0698. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 16 june 2021. doi:


Balinese culture; social imaginaries; critical analysis; Bali as a battlefield