Three Lessons from Tanimbar, a Prologue and an Epilogue

At the Ubud Writers and Readers festival tonight, I’ll be giving a talk on my book Stealing With the Eyes at the lovely Casa Luna restaurant. I’m really looking forward to it. The subtitle of the talk is “Three Lessons from Tanimbar, a Prologue and an Epilogue”. As a taster, here is the outline. I’m looking forward to it. Prologue: On Babies made from Shit “From her shit she made a ball, and out of this she fashioned a baby” …

Everywhere is Exotic, Everywhere is Mundane

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about travel-writing and anthropology, and about the obsession with exoticism that runs through both, in different but equally uneasy ways. Travel-writing often seeks to heighten the exotic: the excitable travel writer revels in it, talking up their experiences and carefully framing photographs to make sure that the Coca-Cola signs are not included. Meanwhile, anthropology tends to downplay it: the sober anthropologist refuses to get involved, sets out to demonstrate that this apparent exoticism is …

Return to Indonesia

It is a warm night in Bali, and I am walking along the road eating tahu isi – filled, deep fried parcels of tofu – when I realise how grateful I am to be back in Indonesia after almost a quarter of a century. I came to Indonesia in 1994 to study to become an anthropologist. I spent six of the most formative months of my life in the Tanimbar islands of Maluku, and returned to the UK to take …