Skip to main content

Bali, the Camera, and Dance: Performance Studies and The Lost Legacy of the Mead/Bateson Collaboration

  • Sally Ann Ness

Working in Bali in the late 1930s, anthropologists Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead made an extraordinary advance in the understanding of human performance. They observed bodily practices constituting processes of signification that resembled linguistic communication far more closely than had ever been suspected. The Mead/Bateson theory of human performance prefigured research in performance studies that has only recently begun to challenge poststructural convictions regarding the ephemerality of symbolic action. Essential to Mead and Bateson's achievement was their pioneering use of film. Equally vital, however, was their construction of Bali as a place, phenomenologically speaking. The Bali in which Mead and Bateson lived and worked was a cosmopolitan yet excessively localized product of their own design, to an extent contemporary perspectives find highly problematic. Nonetheless, the actual complexities of Balinese history and culture can be seen to have intervened into their collaborative process in ways that enabled pathbreaking insights.

Hide All
Appadurai, Arjun. 1991. “Global Ethnoscapes: Notes and Queries for a Transnational Anthropology.” In Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present, ed. Fox, Richard G., 191210. Santa Fe, N.M.: School of American Research Press.
Bandem, I Made, and deBoer, Fredrik Eugene 1995. Balinese Dance in Transition: Kaja and Kelod. 2nd ed. Kuala Lampur: Oxford University Press.
Barnouw, Victor. 1985. “Margaret Mead's from the South Seas.” In Culture and Personality, 4th ed., 94127. Homewood, Ill.: Dorsey Press.
Bateson, Gregory. 1944a. “Cultural Determinants of Personality.” In Personality and the Behavior Disorders, vol. 2, ed. Hunt, Joseph McVicker, 714–35. New York: Ronald Press.
Bateson, Gregory. 1944b. “Form and Function of the Dance in Bali.” In The Function of Dance in Human Society, a Seminar Directed by Franziska Boas, ed. Boas, Franziska, 4652. New York: Boas School.
Bateson, Gregory. 1946a. “Arts of the South Seas.” Art Bulletin 28 (2): 119–23.
Bateson, Gregory. 1946b. “Physical Thinking and Social Problems.” Science 103:717–18.
Bateson, Gregory. 1949. “Bali: The Value System of a Steady State.” In Social Structure: Studies Presented to A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, ed. Fortes, Meyer, 3553. Gloucestershire: Clarendon Press.
Bateson, Gregory. 1967a. Review of Person, Time, and Conduct in Bali by Clifford Geertz. American Anthropologist 69:765–66.
Bateson, Gregory. 1967b. “Style, Grace, and Information in Primitive Art.” Paper presented at the Wenner-Gren Conference on Primitive Art.
Bateson, Gregory. 1972. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Ballantine Books.
Bateson, Gregory, and Margaret, Mead. 1942. Balinese Character: A Photographic Analysis. New York: New York Academy of Sciences.
Belo, Jane, ed. 1970. Traditional Balinese Culture: Essays. New York: Columbia University Press.
Birdwhistell, Ray L. 1977. “Some Discussion of Ethnography, Theory, and Method.” In About Bateson: Essays on Gregory Bateson, ed. Brockman, John, 103–44. New York: E. P. Dutton.
Bloom, Peter J., and Hagedorn, Katherine J.. 2004. Essay for Legong: Dance of the Virgins DVD. [accessed July 17, 2008].
Boon, James A. 1977. The Anthropological Romance of Bali, 1597–1972: Dynamic Perspectives in Marriage and Caste, Politics, and Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bowman-Kruhm, Mary. 2003. Margaret Mead: A Biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
Coast, John. 2004. Dancing Out of Bali. Singapore: Periplus.
Comaroff, Jean. 1985. Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance: The Culture and History of a South African People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Covarrubias, Miguel. 1937. Island of Bali. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Dibya, I Wayan, and Rucina, Ballinger. 2004. Balinese Dance, Drama, and Music: A Guide to the Performing Arts of Bali. Singapore: Periplus.
Drewal, Margaret Thompson. 1992. Yoruba Ritual: Performers, Play, Agency. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
de la Falaise, Henry dir., 1935. Legong: Dance of the Virgins. Bennett Pictures Corporation.
Franko, Mark. 1995. “Mimique.” In Bodies of the Text: Dance as Theory, Literature as Dance, ed. Goellner, Ellen W. and Murphy, Jacqueline Shea, 205–16. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
Franko, Mark, ed. 2007. Ritual and Event: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. London: Routledge.
Ghosh, Manomohan. 1957. Nandikesvara's Abhinayadarpanam: A Manual of Gesture and Posture Used in Hindu Dance and Drama. Calcutta: K. L. Mukhopadhyay.
Grimshaw, Anna. 2001. The Ethnographer's Eye: Ways of Seeing in Modern Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hahn, Tomie. 2007. Sensational Knowledge: Embodying Culture through Japanese Dance. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.
Howard, Jane. 1984. Margaret Mead: A Life. New York: Fawcett Columbine.
Hughes, R. W. [1941] 1964. The Gesture Language of the Hindu Dance. New York: B. Xlom.
Jacknis, Ira. 1988. “Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson in Bali: Their Use of Photography and Film.” Cultural Anthropology 3 (2): 160–77.
Janiewski, Dolores. 2004. “Woven Lives, Raveled Texts: Benedict, Mead, and Representational Doubleness.” In Reading Benedict Reading Mead: Feminism, Race, and Imperial Visions, ed. Janiewski, Dolores and Banner, Lois W., 315. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Jensen, Gordon D., and Suryani, Luh Ketut. 1992. The Balinese People: A Reinvestigation of Character. Singapore: Oxford University Press.
Kothari, Sunil. 1979. Parata Nattiyam = Bharata Natyam: Indian Classical Dance Art. Bombay: Marg Publications.
Lepecki, André. 2004. “Inscribing Dance.” In Of the Presence of the Body: Essays on Dance and Performance Theory, ed. Lepecki, André, 124–39. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.
Lewis, J. Lowell. 1992. Ring of Liberation: Deceptive Discourse in Brazilian Capoeira. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lipset, David. 1982. Gregory Bateson: The Legacy of a Scientist. Boston: Beacon Press.
Mead, Margaret. 1949. “Character Formation and Diachronic Theory.” In Social Structure: Studies Presented to A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, ed. Fortes, Meyer, 1834. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mead, Margaret. 1956. “Some Uses of Still Photography in Culture and Personality Studies.” In Personal Character and Cultural Milieu, 3rd ed., ed. Haring, Douglas G., 79105. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press.
Mead, Margaret, ed. [1959] 1973. An Anthropologist at Work: Writings of Ruth Benedict. New York: Equinox Books.
Mead, Margaret. 1963. “Anthropology and the Camera.” In The Encyclopedia of Photography, ed. Morgan, Willard D., 1:166–84. New York: Greystone Press.
Mead, Margaret. 1970. “The Art and Technology of Fieldwork.” In A Handbook of Method in Cultural Anthropology, ed. Naroll, Raoul and Cohen, Ronald, 246–65. Garden City, N.Y.: Natural History Press.
Mead, Margaret. 1972. Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years. New York: Pocket Books.
Mead, Margaret. 1977a. “End Linkage: A Tool for Cross-Cultural Analysis.” In About Bateson: Essays on Gregory Bateson, ed. Brockman, John, 169231. New York: E. P. Dutton.
Mead, Margaret. 1977b. Letters from the Field, 1925–1975. New York: Harper & Row.
Mead, Margaret, and Francis, Cooke Macgregor. 1951. Growth and Culture: A Photographic Study of Balinese Childhood. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.
Ness, Sally Ann. 1996. Dancing in the Field: Notes from Memory. In Corporealities: Dancing Knowledge, Culture, and Power, ed. Foster, Susan Leigh, 129–54. London: Routledge.
Ness, Sally Ann. 2007. “Going Back to Bateson: Toward a Semiotics of (Post-)Ritual Performance.” In Ritual and Event: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, ed. Franko, Mark, 1330. London: Routledge.
Ness, Sally Ann. 2008. “The Inscription of Gesture: Inward Migrations in Dance.” In Migrations of Gesture, ed. Noland, Carry and Ness, Sally Ann, 130. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Noland, Carrie, and Ness, Sally Ann. 2008. Migrations of Gesture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Rappaport, Roy A. 1979. Ecology, Meaning, and Religion. Richmond, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Roosevelt, André, and Armand Denis, prod. 1932. Goona-Goona. No distributor.
Sklar, Deidre. 2001. Dancing with the Virgin: Body and Faith in the Fiesta of Tortugas, New Mexico. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Stocking, George W. Jr., 1995. After Tylor: British Social Anthropology, 18881951. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Stoller, Paul. 1995. Embodying Colonial Memories: Spirit Possession, Power and the Hauka in West Africa. New York: Routledge.
Sullivan, Gerald. 1999. Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, and Highland Bali: Fieldwork Photographs of Bayung Gedé, 1936–1939. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Sullivan, Gerald. 2004. “Of Feys and Culture Planners: Margaret Mead and Purposive Activity as a Value.” In Reading Benedict Reading Mead: Feminism, Race, and Imperial Visions, ed. Janiewski, Dolores and Banner, Lois W, 101–14. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Tambiah, Stanley J. 1979. “A Performative Approach to Ritual.” Proceedings of the British Academy 65:113–69.
Taussig, Michael. 1993. Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. New York: Routledge.
Trego, Charles dir., 1932. Isle of Paradise. Castle Films.
Vatsyayan, Kapila. 1974. Indian Classical Dance. New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
Venkataraman, Leela. 2002. Indian Classical Dance: Tradition in Transition. New Delhi: Roli Books.
Wiratini, Ni Made. 1991. Condong and Its Roles in Balinese Dance-Drama. Master's thesis, University of California, Los Angeles.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-9118
  • EISSN: 1752-0401
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-asian-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 4
Total number of PDF views: 39 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 155 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.