In this brilliant ethnography of contemporary Java, James Siegel analyzes how language operates to organize and to order an Indonesian people. Despite the imposition of Suharto's New Order, the inhabitants of the city of Solo continue to adhere to their own complex ideas of deference and hierarchy through translation between high and low Javanese speech styles. Siegel uncovers moments when translation fails and compulsive mimicry ensues. His examination of communication and its failures also exposes the ways a culture reconstitutes itself. It leads to insights into the "accidents" that precede the formulations of culture as such.
James T. Siegel is Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies at Cornell University. He is the author of The Rope of God (California) and Shadow and Sound: The Historical Thought of a Sumatran Kingdom (Chicago).