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‘Stealing with the Eyes’: Bewitched, bothered and bewildered

Duncan Graham

The Jakarta Post

Malang, East Java  /  Sun, August 4, 2019  /  05:03 pm
‘Stealing with the Eyes’: Bewitched, bothered and bewildered

'Stealing with the Eyes: Imaginings and Incantations in Indonesia' by Will Buckingham (Haus Publishing/-)

Readers know they’re in for a rollicking time when a supposedly serious-minded academic starts with a blunt admission about his former profession. “Ethnography”, says Dr Will Buckingham when introducing his book Stealing with the Eyes, is “that curious brand of high-minded intrusiveness amongst peoples too polite, or too powerless, to tell you to go [expletive] yourself.” Subtitled Imaginings and Incantations in Indonesia, on one level it’s about a young British graduate’s adventures in the Tanimbar Islands in Maluku late last century. Ostensibly he went in search of three carvers and to learn more of adat, a word with more definitions than dictionaries. It can be culture, magic, ritual, wisdom, tradition, a reason for doing unreasonable things, an excuse for avoiding people and places, and a jumbled mixture of the lot. Adat is ever-pres...