NEW BOOK [out April] – Recent Developments in Bali Tourism: Culture, Heritage, and Landscape in an Open Fortress

Designed cover by Gde Aryantha Soethama, photos Made Artha (front) and Dr. Komang Arba Wirawan (back)

Designed cover by Gde Aryantha Soethama, photos Made Artha (front) and Dr. Komang Arba Wirawan (back)




This publication presents a range of contemporary studies in ‘Baliology’ – or Balinese studies – which in recent years has been dominated by tourism-related studies. It is the outcome of an international seminar titled ‘Benteng Terbuka: The Future of Bali Tourism’, organised by the Masters Program in Tourism Studies, Postgraduate Program, Udayana University in June 2014. The seminar was not designed as a purely academic conference but as a gathering of international and national scholars with representatives of the provincial and national governments to discuss the complexities of Balinese tourism and culture in a practical sense.

On that occasion, the Governor of Bali Made Mangku Pastika presented a paper in which he highlighted the importance of tourism as a source of economic development, employment and cultural identity. He encouraged students to develop their skills and experience to give themselves a competitive advantage in obtaining jobs and positions within the tourism industry and other fields, emphasising that it was not enough to learn English, but that other widely spoken languages like Chinese should be acquired. His words were an acknowledgement that interaction with foreigners is fundamental to change in Balinese society, indicating that while the many challenges of tourism have long been recognised at an official level, the viewpoint has moved beyond simple questions of whether tourism enriches or degrades culture.

Two of the papers in this volume, by Professor Henk Schulte Nordholt and Dr. Graeme MacRae, were prepared specifically for presentation at the seminar. These two key contributions provoke historical reflection on questions of tourism development and identify a long trajectory for present questions about the relationships between tourism and culture. With strong credentials drawing on many years of experience in the field of Bali studies, most recently both authors have documented a kind of cultural crisis experienced by Bali, marked by questions about ethnic identity, the position of Bali within the Indonesian nation state and the flow of immigrants from other parts of Indonesia into the island. In this context, Schulte Nordholt described the island of Bali as an ‘open fortress’ (benteng terbuka), a description that has circulated widely and provoked considerable reflection, thus giving rise to the thematic title of the seminar.

Recognising that a number of other scholars have also conducted research relevant to the questions posed by the seminar, Professor Darma Putra subsequently approached the additional contributors to this volume. While not all of these contributions relate in a direct sense to the theme of ‘benteng terbuka’, we felt that all were applicable to the questions posed by the seminar regarding the future of tourism. Moving beyond the question of whether tourism has a undesirable impact or otherwise on the island of Bali, all the contributions examine developments related to Balinese tourism through the analysis of specific tourism strategies or localities or by extensive discussion of legislation and policy making. A few of the papers have already been published in academic journals, however they have been included here in the interests of accessibility and because the questions they raise have implications that lie beyond specific case studies.


Collectively, this volume makes clear that questions of ‘sustainability’ in relation to Balinese tourism are now as much, if not more, related to the natural environment than they are to aspects of material and performing culture. As Carol Warren reveals in her contribution, this is in part related to Bali’s entanglement in international heritage schemes and conventions which accentuate the links between nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. Several authors discuss the deployment of the Balinese model of Tri Hita Karana in this context, a concept taken to encompass the interconnectivity of the divine, human and environmental domains. As Christian Byczek explains, this philosophy or ‘invented tradition’ is widely held to be a means of enabling the Balinese to adapt to globalisation, while conserving their identity, tradition and culture. Although we may, following Mark Hobart, choose to regard the extensive adoption of this philosophy as another element in Bali’s successful ‘branding’ strategy, there is no doubt that the natural environment is now acknowledged widely in official and informal tourism strategies on the island. As Darma Putra points out, although cultural tourism has long been regarded as the mainstay of the island’s tourism industry there are good reasons to expand the widely-held definitions of cultural tourism to encompass the many activities that take place along Bali’s coastline, a space where nature, ritual and human activities are entwined. Many of the contributors also describe and refer to innovative forms of ecotourism – marketed as alternatives to mass tourism – that have emerged in response to perceived tourism saturation in the established tourist areas.

This volume follows on from several earlier publications in the field of Bali studies resulting from special conferences or studies. These include State and society in Bali: historical, textual and anthropological approaches (1991) edited by Hildred Geertz; Being Modern in Bali: Image and Change (1996) edited by Adrian Vickers; Staying Local in the Global Village: Bali in the Twentieth Century (1999) edited by Raechelle Rubinstein and Linda Connor; To Change Bali: essays in honour of I Gusti Ngurah Bagus (2000) edited by Adrian Vickers and I Nyoman Darma Putra with Michele Ford; and Inequality, crisis and social change in Indonesia: the muted worlds of Bali (2002) edited by Thomas A. Reuter. Additionally, other significant studies have explored and compared Bali to other ethnic groups, such as Between harmony and discrimination: negotiating religious identities within majority-minority relationships in Bali and Lombok (2014) edited by Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and David D. Harnish. All these publications indicate the ongoing of scholarly tradition and regeneration in studies of Bali.

Given that it is over a decade since the publication of an edited volume dedicated entirely to Bali has appeared, we hope that this volume will fill the gap and serve to demonstrate the ongoing level and extent of academic interest in this small island and generate further interchange between researchers of Bali. It is also important to recognise the dedicated academic journal Jurnal Kajian Bali, initiated by Udayana University in 2011, as an arena for the publication of area studies on Bali. We believe that the propensity of multidisciplinary approaches contained in this volume suggests that such approaches will be increasingly common in future.

Bearing in mind the longevity of Bali’s tourism industry, we felt that it was important to elicit contributions from younger scholars who have only recently begun their work in this field. However, in making room for younger scholars some of the most distinguished names in the field have been overlooked. In particular we recognise the sharp insights and analysis of our guru Adrian Vickers who contributed immensely the earlier collected volumes, and whose major publications include A Paradise Created and Paintings and Drawings of Bali. He is an inspiration to fellow colleagues and students alike and for this reason we are not only honoured, but feel it is fitting that Adrian has penned the closing remarks to this volume given his attention to studies or representations of Bali throughout his career. Just as Professor Dr. I Gusti Ngurah Bagus (1933–2003) was an academic ‘father’ to many of Adrian’s generation and Hildred Geertz, a ‘mother’, today’s students of Balinese studies regard Adrian in extremely high esteem for his detailed appraisals and the staggering scope of his research. It is our hope that others will draw the same kind of inspiration from the investigations, discussions and analysis presented here. ***