Body and Society 15 (3):93-119 (2009)

Pencak Silat is a martial art, performance practice and system of body cultivation prevalent throughout much of Indonesia and the Malay-speaking world. This article compares different modalities of the practice and pedagogy of Sundanese Pencak Silat in West Java with more recent attempts to standardize practice at a national level under the auspices of the Indonesian Pencak Silat Association. Drawing on David Sudnow’s seminal account of learning how to play jazz piano, it is suggested that learning how to improvise is a highly structured process that proceeds from the mastery of certain generic principles from which are generated potentially unbounded repertoires of habitual response. In the institutionalized instruction that is propagated by IPSI generative potential is subjugated to the desire to achieve homogeneity in practice. Aspects of Pencak Silat as it is taught nationally under the auspices of IPSI are examined in relation to the notion of spectacle. In conclusion, it is argued that the limits of the Nationalist project become self-evident as the dynamic potential of the body in Sundanese Pencak Silat is subsumed in an attempt to achieve fixity of the symbolic order.
Keywords Performing arts   Martial Arts   Nationalism   Pencak Silat
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DOI 10.1177/1357034X09339103
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Human Agency and Language.Charles Taylor - 1985 - Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
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