Optical Allusions: Looking at Looking, in Balinese and Dutch Encounters

Margaret Wiener


This article revisits vision’s relation to power and knowledge through a symmetrical discussion of Balinese and Dutch ideologies and practices of seeing. Juxtaposing Balinese and Dutch allusions to matters optical in anecdotes about meetings between envoys of the Netherlands Indies state and members of pre- colonial Bali’s ruling classes invites a consideration of the role optical technologies play in assembling (partially connected) worlds. Highlighting the mediators that visual practices require, it argues that familiar claims about vision rest on hegemonic ontologies. Looking back at colonial encounters from Bali shows that what eyes see and do goes beyond observation.


vision; colonialism; ontology; Bali

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11588/hdethn.0.0.18999

URN (PDF): http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:16-hdethn-189995


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