Asian Ethnology 82-1 | article Displaying Demons Processions at the Crossroads in Multireligious Indonesia
In the Hindu Balinese imagination, demons (buta kala) are ambiguous figures of the crossroads. Across Indonesia, the display of giant demon puppets (ogoh-ogoh) has increasingly become part of the lunar Hindu New Year celebrations. Drawing on fieldwork among the Balinese minority on the island of Lombok, I argue that the display of demon puppets permits Hindu Balinese youth to unleash “wild” demonic forces. Building on Kaja M. McGowan’s (2008) notion of Balinese “internal aesthetics,” I propose that the puppets serve as potential sites or receptacles for the demonic. Just as each demon puppet mobilizes a display of fun and volatility, so it provokes passions and frequently becomes embroiled in conflict. Demon puppets are designed to amuse and dazzle by their outrageous appearance, yet they unsettle the porous boundaries between “religion” and “entertainment.” By examining the politics surrounding the annual ogoh-ogoh procession in Cakranegara, I show that their display acquires urgency in a multireligious context.