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Through The Eyes of Researcher: Balinese View on Violence  

by on Saturday, 3 November 2007No Comment | 940 views

Mark Hobart in his thesis entitled “Violence as Social Institution” has an interesting insight on Balinese concept of violence. Here is the part of his thesis which deals with Balinese concept of violence.

What is violence? Before proceeding to representations of violence, it may be useful to sketch in some background. For a start what do we mean by violence? That standard fallback source, the Oxford English Dictionary, shows the range of uses of ‘violence’ alone to be wide. They include ‘the exercise of physical force’, causing ‘bodily injury’, ‘forcibly interfering with personal freedom’, ‘to outrage or violate’, ‘undue constraint applied to some natural process, habit etc., so as to prevent its free development or exercise’, ‘perversion of meaning’, ‘great force, severity, or vehemence’, ‘vehemence of personal feeling’ and ‘passionate conduct or language’.

These are only the positive aspects. Perhaps the most effective forms of violence are indicated by the absence of signs or representations (like the constraint on choice of the unemployed or the elimination of those deemed unqualified – like students, or women – from taking part in certain activities or discourses). If violence is a useful notion, we need to consider silences and exclusions as well.

It is hard to find simple equivalents in Balinese to the variety of states and acts denoted by ‘violence’ in English. There is a plethora of terms which specify kinds of extremity. Of those which deal with force, /gemes /is used where we might ‘cruel’, ‘tough on’, ‘not disgusted by’. /Paksa/, which is usually glossed as ‘force’, brings out the coercive, but not necessarily physical, aspects.

Violence and brutality are, however, associated with a term with complex uses – /kasar/. Its antonym, /alus/, is used of people who are refined, controlled, well-mannered; and /kasar /signifies the reverse, what is coarse, uncontrolled, brutish. The implication of a lack of control, of ‘naturalness’, may lead to a link with violence. Demons who stoke the fires of hell are portrayed as /kasar /and cruel. However one must be careful.

The two terms are used of styles as much as the consequences of actions. Princes were reputed to be far deadlier in war, because of their control, than coarse and flailing peasants. Refined men have invented refined tortures for their fellows as recently as the abortive coup of 1965. /Kasar /also suggests a certain simplicity and straightforwardness: more associated with unthinking brutality than cruelty.

The Balinese incline to the view that the simple are, on the whole, honest; it is the clever who are responsible for the chicanery, and engineering the violence done by others. Whatever the details the Balinese do not seem to have a general category of ‘violence’ but break the subject up into different forms which do not overlap with ours.

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