Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change

Key Features

Students in this program examine the close relationship between contemporary economic and political change with religion, fine arts, performing arts, gender politics, and social organization in contemporary Bali. Students discover the dynamic ways in which Balinese traditional arts, social networks, and the environment are changing, especially in urban settings, in conjunction with the opportunities and pressures of globalization.

Institutions we work with include:

This program is based in Bedulu, once the central hub of the Udayana dynasty (ca. 900–1200 CE) in present-day Bali. Bedulu is small, but fairly spread out, giving it the feel of a well-organized and spacious village, with beautiful interior gardens, surrounded by many historical sites. It is famous for the ancient Samuan Tiga temple complex, which is said to have been the site where three earlier forms of the Balinese Hindu faith were merged to create a single, unified form of religious practice and belief. Bedulu is also home to some of Bali's impressive monuments and relics including the Yeh Pulu carvings; the biggest bronze drum in southeast Asia, located in the Penataran Sasih temple; and Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave). Bedulu provides students with excellent access to both visiting researchers and community experts.

Bedulu is located near Ubud, a larger village that has grown into a major hub and crossroads of culture, attracting international interest in the arts, traditional culture, and "New Age" spiritual studies. SIT students can take advantage of the many amenities of Ubud, which can be reached in 20 minutes by public transportation. Bedulu is also near Denpasar, the island's center for business, academia, and government.

While in Bedulu, students engage in the thematic course, the Field Methods and Ethics course, and the intensive study of Bahasa Indonesia. In addition to classroom lectures, student-led discussions, and forums for discussing research methods, students have the opportunity to pursue practicum lessons of local art forms to and engage in other cultural activities. The program's library, office, and classroom facilities are all located in Bedulu and are within walking distance from student homestay families.

Interaction with Indonesian Peers
The program includes several opportunities for students to meet, socialize, and work together with Indonesian peers. In Java, Indonesian peers are invited to participate in  program activities such as interfaith dialogues and intercultural social events.

Local students from Udayana and Warmadewa universities participate in the village excursion to Tabanan. This gives both groups of students a wonderful opportunity to share the surprises of village life, to get to know one other in an informal atmosphere. Indonesian students partner with their SIT peers in a joint field-study assignment to conduct interviews and gain primary data for an analytical paper. This gives SIT students an opportunity to practice carrying out interviews in a cross-cultural setting.

Field Study
Field-based exercises are an essential component of this program. One of the highlights of the semester is attendance at religious and other cultural ceremonies. Students witness processions to the river, tall and beautiful handmade rice ornaments, and special dance performances lasting late into the night. Students may purchase pakaian adat, the beautiful Balinese clothing to wear to religious ceremonies.

The Field Methods and Ethics seminar instructs students on the techniques, methods, and ethics necessary for successful research. The course focuses on the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. Material includes:

  • Cross-cultural adaptation and skills building
  • Appropriate field study methodologies
  • Field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy
  • Developing skills in observation and interviewing
  • Gathering, organizing, and communicating data

Throughout this section of the program, students establish ideas for their Independent Study Project and learn how to develop their research topics properly.  

Independent Study Project
Students spend the last month of the program working on an Independent Study Project (ISP) in which they conduct primary research on a selected topic. These individual research projects allow students to apply the concepts and skills of their experience-based learning in the Field Methods and Ethics seminar and their interdisciplinary coursework, while exploring a topic of particular significance to them.

Student ISPs on this program have been many and various over the years, including those based on arts practica and the social sciences. In the social sciences, students have produced high quality works on topics including:

  • Balinese rural women's reproductive health issues
  • Local responses to illegal use of land 
  • The social and ritual organization of "original Balinese" villages in Balinese highland areas
  • Street art and youth culture
  • Tourism and the environment
  • Modern arts of Java and Bali
  • Gender minority in Java
  • Life at Pesantren, the Islamic boarding school

Some students have elected the arts practicum ISP, for which they have worked with a wide variety of local experts in the fine arts, performing arts, textile arts, and musical arts. In many cases students have established a lasting artistic and personal rapport with their local partners that has led to the development of innovative artistic approaches. Many projects have been beneficial to both SIT students and their Balinese/Indonesian teachers and peers.

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Bedulu, central southern Bali

Language Study: Bahasa Indonesia

Prerequisites: None

View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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