In this brilliant ethnography of contemporary Java, James Siegel analyzes how language operates to organize and to order an Indonesian people. Despite the imposition of Suharto's New Order, the inhabitants of the city of Solo continue to adhere to their own complex ideas of deference and hierarchy through translation between high and low Javanese speech styles. Siegel uncovers moments when translation fails and compulsive mimicry ensues. His examination of communication and its failures also exposes the ways a culture reconstitutes itself. It leads to insights into the "accidents" that precede the formulations of culture as such.
"Few ethnographies can match Solo in the New Order, inspired as it is by Siegel's crafted obsession with the limits of categories of thought--both Western and Javanese. His eye for incongruent particularities and odd juxtapositions allows him to engage critically the relationship between the "uncanny' and attempts to domesticate its manifestations--through translation practices, historical revisionism, vernacular concepts of the senses, discourses on death and gambling, among others--and makes his work valuable to anyone interested not only in theorizing cultural studies but in carrying out its practical implications and radical possibilities as well."--Vincente Rafael, University of California, San Diego
"Few books succeed as well as this one in addressing the most urgent of Western intellectual concerns while remaining entirely within the purview of a non-Western social and cultural field."--Sam Weber, University of California, Los Angeles
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by James T. Siegel: