Cover image for Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, and highland Bali : fieldwork photographs of Bayung Gedé, 1936-1939
Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, and highland Bali : fieldwork photographs of Bayung Gedé, 1936-1939
Sullivan, Gerald.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
ix, 213 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GN635.I65 S948 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In 1936 anthropologist Margaret Mead and her husband, Gregory Bateson, retreated from lowland Bali, which was the focal point of much scholarly and tourist activity, to the remote village of Bayung Gedé in the island's central highlands. Although they wrote relatively little about their work in this place, which Mead called "our village, way up in the mountains, a lovely self-contained village," they did leave behind a remarkably rich and extensive photographic record of their time there.

Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, and Highland Bali includes 200 photographs that the couple took between 1936 and 1939, the vast majority of which have never before been published. They vividly capture the everyday lives of the men, women, and children of Bayung Gedé, their homes and their temples, and many other fascinating details of village life not featured in Mead and Bateson's publications.

In a substantial introductory essay, Gerald Sullivan, who selected the photographs, uses excerpts from fieldnotes and correspondence to illuminate Mead and Bateson's ethnographic work. Tracing the project from its inception in their proposals to the publication of their work, Sullivan shows how they used the photographs both as fieldnotes and as elements in their theoretical argument. Finally, he explores what the photographs reveal--independently of Mead and Bateson's project--about the Balinese character to the contemporary viewer.

The result is a both a substantial contribution to visual anthropology and an invaluable supplement to the published works of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson.

Author Notes

Gerald Sullivan is lecturer in the department of Asian languages and fellow of the department of anthropology and the Institute of Asian Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; Te Whare Wananga o te Upoko o te Ika a Maui, Aotearoa

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Famous anthropologist husband-and-wife team Mead and Bateson spent more than two years in the late 1930s studying the culture of a remote village located on the island of Bali named Bayung Gede. During that period, Bateson took about 25,000 photographs, of which only 1,200 have ever been previously published. These photos have appeared in various works on their Balinese studies, e.g., Balinese Character, and in articles and biographies on the anthropologists. For this book, Sullivan selected 200 photographs from the enormous collection to show what life was like for Mead and Bateson while living in their field site. The photographs form a marvelous series that ranges from Mead and Bateson at work to people of the village doing daily tasks to activities surrounding the various religious ceremonies and historical remembrances. In his introductory essay, Sullivan examines the methods that Mead and Bateson undertook to complete their study. This collection is a wonderful complement to the work of Mead and Bateson. --Julia Glynn

Choice Review

Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson's innovative use of photographs in their 1930s Bali research is widely regarded as an important landmark in ethnographic method. Sullivan explores and reexamines the significance of that body of work from the perspective of contemporary anthropology. He presents a collection of more than 200 fieldwork photographs, most of which have never been published, and contributes a concise introductory essay that explains Mead and Bateson's methods and rationales, analyzing the uses they made of photographic data. Drawing on diverse materials such as grant proposals and personal letters, Sullivan shows how Mead and Bateson used photos as aids to note taking, as illustrations of their theoretical arguments, and as an attempt to overcome the weakness of verbal representation in scientific exposition. That the photos have an evident enduring value independent of Mead's debatable psychoanalytic theories of Balinese character perhaps validates her argument that photographs make a unique ethnographic contribution that partially transcends the theoretical biases of the ethnographer. In any case, such a claim has considerable rhetorical force in persuading readers and granting agencies that ethnographic texts are authoritative, over and above the representational value of photographs. All levels. A. Arno; University of Hawaii at Manoa

Table of Contents

Introduction: Notes, Signs, and Shadows