• John Pemberton

    Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies (Fall term 2017)
    858 Schermerhorn Extension, Mail Code: 5538, New York, NY 10027
    +1 212 854 7463


    In my research I consider various points of conjuncture between history and anthropology, and do so in pursuit of the ethnographic shadows of an emergent modern subject. Addressed in my earlier work are issues informing colonial encounters, translation, ritual practice, and the political implications of cultural discourse under colonial and postcolonial conditions, with a particular focus on Indonesia. In On the Subject of "Java", I explore the peculiar relationship between culture and politics in Java, attempting to disclose the limits and horizons of cultural critique within New Order Indonesia as well as within the field anthropological inquiry.

    My more recent work on Javanese exorcism, shadow-puppet narrative, circuitries of voice, black magic, and the crowd, extends this analytical mix of historical, ethnographic, and political concerns, and, at the same time, shifts its emphasis to issues of translation, temporality, performance, voice, and narrative event. I am presently pursuing (one could just as easily say “pursued by” as well) related domains of the modern and late-modern: machineries of the modern, ghosts of technology, and the uncanny promise of recording angels in late-modern times. Of particular interest here are issues of accident, apparition, repetition, and the appearance of coincidence. A continuing interest remains, always, music and matters of sound--echoes of that which lies just beyond language and strangely close to the heart.


    1987. "Musical Politics in Central Java (or How Not to Listen to a Javanese Gamelan)," Indonesia 44, pp. 17-29.

    1994. "Recollections from 'Beautiful Indonesia' (Somewhere Beyond the Postmodern)," Public Culture 6:2, pp. 241-262.

    1994. On the Subject of "Java". Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

    1998. "Disorienting Culturalist Assumptions: A View from 'Java,'" in Nicholas B. Dirks, ed., In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century. Minneapolis. University of Minnesota Press, pp. 119-146.

    1999. "Open Secrets: Excerpts from Conversations with a Javanese Lawyer, and a Comment," in Vicente L. Rafael, ed., Figures of Criminality in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Colonial Vietnam. Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, pp. 193-209.

    2003. "Jawa". Jogyakarta, Indonesia: Yayasan Bentang Indonesia.

    2003. "Returns of the Repressed: Indonesia's New Order Elections Revisited," in Jean Louis Briquet and Peter Pels, ed., The Tools of Democracy: Essays on the Ethnography of the Secret Ballot (Centre d' Etudes et Recherches Internationales).

    2003. "The Specter of Coincidence," in Audrey Kahin and James T. Siegel, eds. Southeast Asia over Three Generations: Essays Presented to Benedict R. O'Gorman Anderson (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 2003), pp. 75-90.

    “Beyond the Screen of Representation: or, When Things Begin to Move on Their Own,” in Ingrid Schaffner and Carin Kuoni, eds. The Puppet Show (Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art), 2008.

     "The Ghost in the Machine," in Rosalind Morris, ed. Photographies East (Durham: Duke University Press), 2010