The Enchantment of Agriculture: State Decentering and Irrigated Rice Production in Bali

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Anthropology and Museum Studies

Publication Date



This article explores state involvement in the ‘enchanted’ aspects of irrigated rice production in Bali, Indonesia. Modernising states invariably forward what Max Weber called the rationalisation and disenchantment of the world. In irrigation management, the Indonesian colonial and postcolonial states operated staunchly on this model. ‘Enchanted’ elements of Balinese rice production involving temples and rituals were assumed irrelevant and sidelined. Recently, however, bursts of state-funded construction of irrigation temples and shrines suggest a surprising shift. The post-Suharto decentralised state appears to be supporting the enchantment of irrigated agriculture. This article deals with the relationship between legislation under the decentralised state and ritual building activities in Balinese irrigation associations (subak). We examine how contemporary farmers view the new emphasis on ‘ritual technology’. Does it constitute decentralised support of the farmers' world, of local priorities and variance, or a new homogenising project?


This article was originally published in The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology