via Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences, 28 June 2023: The recent publication of an open access book edited by Saam Noonsuk, which explores the abundant and vibrant Hindu art in Southeast Asia and its persistence throughout history, with a particular focus on Bali.
The book includes an introduction by Kaja McGowan, associate professor of History of Art and Visual Studies, and essays by Cornell alumni and current doctoral candidates, tracing the ways cultural forces of Hindu belief have persisted in Southeast Asia even after this religion was overshadowed by Buddhism and Islam. The book is dedicated to McGowan, whose scholarly work continues to focus on Bali – home to the largest Hindu community outside India.
“Professor McGowan’s scholarship is vigorous in Balinese Hinduism, which is a unique form of religion, syncretizing indigenous beliefs with Hinduism and blending into the landscape and the life of the people in this renowned Indonesian island of Bali,” Noonsuk said. “She’s dedicated her life to the topic and taught her students, me included, to see the deep relationships between art forms and living culture.” McGowan used dance, artwork, spices and objects in her innovative pedagogy, Noonsuk said: “She made art alive and transformed her students’ learning in the process.”
Four of the contributors to “Performing Prowess” are former or current students of McGowan’s. Noonsuk wrote a chapter and concluding remarks on Hindu heritage in modern-day Thailand. Other Cornellian contributors are: John Miksic, Ph.D. ’79, Professor Emeritus of Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore; Pamela Corey, Ph.D. ‘15, Faculty/B.A. Coordinator, Art and Media Studies, Fulbright University Vietnam; Anissa Rahadiningtyas, Ph.D. ’21, assistant curator at the National Gallery of Singapore; and Astara Light, doctoral candidate in History of Art (A&S), and recent recipient of a Fulbright Grant to conduct fieldwork in Indonesia.