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The Australian National University

Dr Bryan Rochelle

Position: PhD graduate in Anthropology


Thesis Title: 'Digging Up Culture': An Ethnography of Culture & Civilisation in Minahasa, Indonesia
Since Johann Herder's original eighteenth-century use of the concept culture to critique civilisation's universalising trajectory, the concepts culture and civilisation have evolved in relations of interdependent and complementary opposition, in diverse contexts over time. Bryan Rochelle's thesis explores the development of the relationship between these two concepts, linking their evolution within anthropological thought to the historical and contemporary contexts of their usage in Minahasa, northern Sulawesi, Indonesia. The role of culture and civilisation is examined in both colonial and post-colonial contexts, within discourses promulgated by church and state, and everyday discourse. The geneaology of their usage is traced through nineteenth-century missionary and colonial administrative discourse in Minahasa, when civilisation was a key utilitarian concept, into the twentieth-century attention to culture within discourses of Indonesian nationalism and the GMIM (The Christian Evangelical Church in Minahasa) in northern Sulawesi.

Bryan's thesis examines how the people of the town of Lolah, within Minahasa, use contemporary Indonesian equivalents of the culture-civilisation nexus – the concepts kebudayaan and moderen – to make sense of, and orient themselves, in their negotiation of socio-economic, spiritual and cultural change. This is explored through Bryan's informants' reflections upon historical processes of change, and contemporary efforts to reconcile certain cultural traditions – articulated as menggali kembali budaya (to dig up and bring back culture) – with a modern Christian worldview. This thesis considers how the concepts culture and civilisation, in complementary opposition, have developed as technologies of the self, related to the development of pastoral power, in the production of civilised/modern, Christian subjects in Minahasa. In this context, culture and civilisation are appreciated as concepts with meta-effects, meaningfully realised in everyday life, producing what they delimit and define: culture and civilisation.


Updated: 17 November 2010/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher