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pioneering look at the island and is cited throughout the sizeable canon of books on Bali
published within the 20th and into the 21st century, by writer`s such as Jane Belo (1960, 1970),
Clifford Geertz (1980), Leo Howe (2001) and Robert Pringle (2004), among many others.
In Island of Bali, Covarrubias makes observations on the daily life of the Balinese, their
social organization, their exceptional flair for art and drama, and their religious practices, with
two separate chapters focused on witchcraft, and death and cremation. Covarrubias states that
religion for the Balinese is “both race and nationality,” (ibid: 261) pointing to the fact that a
Balinese automatically loses his or her status within their community if they convert to another
religion or if a Balinese woman marries a non-Balinese. This is still very much the case within
Bali and is something that many people, including myself, had to consider when marrying a
Balinese. Hence it affects all other aspects of their society, including communal organization
and production of art and dance. The sense that religion for the Balinese plays a large part in
what makes a person “Balinese,” is a theme that has persisted in the anthropological literature.
Some of Covarrubias’ most interesting observations come in the last few pages of the
book in the chapter “Modern Bali and the Future.” As Krause was, Covarrubias was concerned
about the impact Christian missionaries would have on the island. Although Krause gave the
impression that missionary work abruptly came to end with the tragic story of Nicodemus
(Mabbett, 1988: 88), Covarrubias spoke nearly twenty years later of both Catholic and
Protestant missions on the island and the movements, often led by European expatriates,
against them. Covarrubias described the missions as “discreet but tireless in their efforts to