Organized Panel Session
Anderson’s discussion of power in Javanese society highlighted historic, Indic-derived understandings in juxtaposition with “Western” sensibilities concerning power. Among the contrasting features suggested is a Western notion of power as abstract and derived from heterogenous sources, versus a Javanese idea of power as concrete and homogenous. Over twenty years ago (1997), I examined Toraja ideas about power, authority, and leadership in the Austronesian context. This paper offers an update and revisits Anderson’s observations concerning classic Javanese visions of power as imbued in material forms. Toraja ideas about power and authority are certainly entwined with heritage objects, although understandings of these objects’ potency are filtered by prisms of rank, class, and locality (given domestic and international migration). The advent of a global dark market for Toraja heritage objects (especially mortuary effigies) adds a further layer of complexity. I trace shifts in Toraja relationships to their material culture heritage and address current-day transformations and debates pertaining to relocated ancestral statues originally thought to be imbued with power. I also contextualize these statue-related debates in the contemporary power politics of district-splintering.