The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Macaques and the Ritual Production of Sacredness Among Balinese Transmigrants in South Sulawesi, Indonesia


1Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame, 2Department of Forestry, Hasanuddin University, 3Department of Anthropology, San Diego State University

March 28, 2015 , Gateway Ballroom 2/3/4/5 Add to calendar

Long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) at temple sites in Bali are often protected by local residents. An underlying cause of this protection is that the macaques may be considered sacred due to the presence of monkeys in Hindu texts, or through their frequent occurrence in sacred temple spaces. Macaque spatial context is an important component of the human-macaque interface in Bali because the revered long-tailed macaques may be shot at or chased away when found in or around agricultural plots. This research was conducted with Balinese transmigrants living in South Sulawesi, outside of Bali, to better understand the influence of space (sacred and non-sacred; ancestral and migratory), and other issues, on Balinese Hindu perceptions of macaque sacredness. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 100 individuals from three transmigrant communities regarding their relationship with local booted macaques (Macaca ochreata). We found that the majority of transmigrants did not consider booted macaques sacred. Reasons given for this lack of sacredness included the absence of macaques in and around temple sites in these transmigrant communities, as well as frequent crop-raiding behavior. These results also have implications for the perception of macaque sacredness in Bali. The presence of long-tailed macaques at temple sites in Bali alone does not result in their sacredness, but rather it’s their nondisruptive behavior during rituals that contributes to their perceived sacredness. This re-conceptualization of macaque sacredness importantly situates macaques and humans as sharing in the production of macaque sacredness.

Funding for this research was provided by a U.S. Fulbright Student Award.