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Reading a History of Writing: heritage, religion and script change in Java

  • Ronit Ricci


Scripts are sites of religious, cultural and political power. Although scripts are often viewed solely as technical devices in the service of meaning, the particular histories of scripts’ coming into being, their uses and sometimes disappearance can tell us much about shifting religious agendas, memory, and attachments to community, place, and particular literary cultures. In my essay I explore the history of writing in Java, including the story of the letters’ creation, to think about cultural and religious transformations, the relationship of foreign to local, and the powerful hold certain texts have on the imagination.



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Ronit Ricci is an Associate Professor at the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University, as well as Sternberg-Tamir Chair of Comparative Cultures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.



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Unpublished primary sources
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Ajisaka Ngejawi. Undated. Istana Mangkunagara, Surakarta. MS. MN 182.
Dyamasastra, Kridhaksara, Candrasangkala. Undated. Museum Sonobudoyo, Yogyakarta. MS. MSB P93.
Serat Sindula. 1857. Pura Pakualaman, Yogyakarta. MS. St. 81.
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