Home Others John Pemberton

John Pemberton

Research interest

Colonial / decolonial image and sound cultures Performance signs, people and things The political memory, museums and the archive

Research partial interest

Aesthetics and politics, ritual and theater, modernity, literature and translation, sound studies

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South East Asia; Indonesia; Java


John Pemberton's earlier work deals with issues of colonial encounter, translation and the political implications of cultural discourse, with a special focus on Indonesia. His books, On the subject of Java and Java, wrote to uncover the horizons and limits of cultural criticism in the Dutch East Indies and the post-colonial New Order Indonesia, as well as in the field of anthropological research itself. More recent work on Javanese exorcism, shadow puppet theater, narration, voting circles, and magic expand this analytical mix of historical, ethnographic, and political concerns, as does his work on emerging technologies and machines of modernity and late modernism. A continuing interest always remains the question of sound - how do you live and move in sound worlds? How do you think with and through sounds? - and music, echoes of what is just beyond language and strangely close to the heart.


Cornell University, PhD in Anthropologie, 1989
Wesleyan University, MA in Musik, 1972
Wesleyan University, BA, 1970

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2010. 'The Spirit in the Machine'. in the Photographs East: Camera Stories in East and Southeast Asia , edited by Rosalind Morris, 29-56. Durham: Duke University Press.

2008. Beyond the Screen of Representation: or When things start to move on their own. in the The puppet show , edited by Ingrid Schaffner and Carin Kuoni. Philadelphia: Institute for Contemporary Art.

2007. 'Return of the Oppressed: Indonesia's New Elections to Reorganize.' in the Voting Cultures: The Hidden Story of Secret Voting , edited by Romain Bertrand, Jean Louis Briquet and Peter Pels, 197-225. Paris: Center for International Studies and Research.

2003. 'Java. Yogyakarta, Indonesia: The Citadel.

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2003b. 'The specter of chance.' in the Southeast Asia Across Three Generations: Essays to Benedict R. O'Gorman Anderson , edited by Audrey Kahin and James T. Siegel, 75-90. Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program.

1999. 'Open Secrets: Excerpts from Conversations with a Javanese Attorney and a Commentary.' in the Crime numbers in Indonesia, the Philippines and colonial Vietnam , edited by Vicente Rafael, 193-209. Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program.

1998. 'Confusing culturalist assumptions:' Java 'doubles.' in the Near ruins: culture in question , edited by Nicholas Dirks, 119-145. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

1994. On the subject of Java. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

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1994b. 'Memories of' Beautiful Indonesia '(somewhere beyond postmodernism).' Public culture 6, no. 2: 241-262.

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1992. “Disempowerment. Not.' Public culture 5, no. 1: 83-88.

1987. 'Music Politics in Central Java (or How Not to Listen to a Javanese Gamelan).' Indonesia 44: 17–29.

1986. 'Notes on the 1982 parliamentary elections in Solo.' Indonesia 41: 1-22.

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