Feb 02, 2023  
2023 January Term Course Catalog 
2023 January Term Course Catalog
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JAN 184 - The Web of Life on the Island of the Gods: Nature and Culture in Bali

Upper division
Full credit

This course studies the nexus of nature and culture in Bali, where the two realms overlap, mirror, and infuse each other in intriguing ways to sustain people and their environments alike. We’ll survey the interconnections emerging from Bali’s holistic metaphysics, manifest in effigies of the goddess Dewi Sri that punctuate the island’s famous rice terraces; in religious beliefs about spirits animating the landscape; in a  sacred cave; in shadow puppet performances that bring daily experiences into conversation with ancient myths; in complex irrigation works managed ingeniously by subaks, organizations overseen by priests; and in musical forms inspired by the wildlife of the island. Magic mediates between people and nature in Bali, but we’ll learn how the island’s rapid yet inflected modernization is (incompletely) replacing the mysterious with modern science and economics. We’ll attend throughout to the challenges and opportunities created by tourism. Students will blog and journal their intellectual and emotional responses during the course. 

Talks by local experts in religion, ecology, food, the arts, and shamanism will augment lectures and readings.  Performances, rituals, ceremonies, discussions with farmers, hikes through riparian corridors and agroecosystems, and a visit to Bali’s national park, including rainforests and two snorkeling trips, will ground our understandings. We’ll settle in five locations: a retreat near Tampaksiring; a peaceful high mountain valley of Sideman; the mountain village of Munduk, known for its performing arts and cocoa, coffee, and clove plantations; the seaside town of Pemuteran, near Bali’s national park and major coral reefs; and Ubud, an artistic and cultural center. We’ll tour East Bali Poverty Project’s village sites. The trip will include significant walking and hiking, up to 6-8 miles on peak days. Participants must be willing to tolerate hot tropical weather and occasional physically uncomfortable conditions.

This course also presents a special opportunity this year: By luck, both Balinese high holidays of Galungan and Kuningan will take place during our trip, providing an opportunity to witness these major celebrations,  which only occasionally take place during January because they rotate throughout the year.


Core Designation: Global Perspectives and The Common Good.

Instructor(s): Ken Worthy & Becca Brunner
Email:  kaw9@stmarys-ca.edu

Prerequisites & Notes
Prerequisites:  (a) experience studying a foreign language or culture OR (b) significant prior international travel experience
Course Fee: 3775

Credits: 1

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