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Preciosa de Joya

The Punakawans Make an Untimely Appearance

In Praise of Caves, Shadows, and Fire (or A Response to Plato’s Doctrine of Truth)
This paper begins with a Bakhtinian reflection on Javanese shadow puppet theatre (wayang kulit), and explores errancy through carnival laughter embodied and performed by the wise, grotesque figures of clown-servants (punakawan). I argue, however, that here the real subversive power lies not in a combative position that erupts in a social revolution but in offering an alternative way of thinking and being, a deviation from the philosophical (Platonic) obsession for truth and heroic/historic gestures that claim to overcome ignorance and hegemonic/normative structures. Responding to the critique of so-called feudal elements in ‘Javanism’, I explore how the Javanese mantra, ‘manunggaling kawula gusti’ (the union of servant and lord), incessantly rehearsed in the stories and life of the people, reveals neither blindness nor self-dissimulation.
Title
The Punakawans Make an Untimely Appearance
Subtitle
In Praise of Caves, Shadows, and Fire (or A Response to Plato’s Doctrine of Truth)
Author(s)
Preciosa de Joya
Identifier
Description
This paper begins with a Bakhtinian reflection on Javanese shadow puppet theatre (wayang kulit), and explores errancy through carnival laughter embodied and performed by the wise, grotesque figures of clown-servants (punakawan). I argue, however, that here the real subversive power lies not in a combative position that erupts in a social revolution but in offering an alternative way of thinking and being, a deviation from the philosophical (Platonic) obsession for truth and heroic/historic gestures that claim to overcome ignorance and hegemonic/normative structures. Responding to the critique of so-called feudal elements in ‘Javanism’, I explore how the Javanese mantra, ‘manunggaling kawula gusti’ (the union of servant and lord), incessantly rehearsed in the stories and life of the people, reveals neither blindness nor self-dissimulation.
Is Part Of
Place
Berlin
Publisher
ICI Berlin Press
Date
September 20, 2022
Subject
Wayang
Wayang kulit
Humour
Grotesque
Kejawen
Theatre--Philosophy
Plato's cave (Allegory)
Bakhtin, Mikhail
Rights
© by the author(s)
Except for images or otherwise noted, this publication is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Harvested
yes
Language
en-GB
short title
The Punakawans Make an Untimely Appearance
page start
19
page end
47
Source
Errans: Going Astray, Being Adrift, Coming to Nothing, ed. by Christoph F. E. Holzhey and Arnd Wedemeyer, Cultural Inquiry, 24 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2022), pp. 19–47