Influential professor immortalized in new book

by Ni Komang Erviani on 2012-12-29

The late I Gusti Ngurah Bagus, Udayana University’s anthropology professor known for his prophetic and poignant thoughts on the future of the island’s culture, was immortalized in a biography launched on Friday by Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika.

The 1174-page book Passing Through the Storm was penned by local historian Nyoman Wijaya and published by The Hindu Center and Faculty of Letters, Udayana University, with funding from many donators, including the governor.

Hundreds of prominent figures, scholars, artists, cultural observers and officials attended the launch at Werdhi Budaya Art Center, east Denpasar.

Ngurah, who passed away on Oct. 16, 2003, was known as one of Bali’s brightest minds and was a father figure for Indonesians — as well as a countless number of foreign — students who wanted to explore the island’s intricate cultural and social tapestry.

He initiated the Cultural Studies Magister Program at Udayana University in 1996, together with anthropologist Wayan Geriya. He also facilitated the cultural studies doctoral program (S3) at the university, creating a space for people to conduct research.

“Ngurah Bagus was a pioneer for the renewal of critical thinking on the island. This book could be a reference tool for the management of Bali,” Governor Pastika said.

He added that the professor had warned about the dangers of pursuing a mass-tourism policy, which would result in the island becoming a “cheap” destination.

Ida Bagus Sudibya, chairman of The Hindu Center, praised Ngurah as a visionary thinker while anthropologist Jean Couteau said that the biography had not only presented knowledge about Ngurah and his way of thinking but also the history of Bali.

“I hope [after the success of this biography] that other books written by Ngurah could be republished,” he said.

Wijaya said that the book was begun when Ngurah still alive and he was assisted by three undergraduate students with the interviews.

The book was completed in 2006. However, a lack of funding prevented Wijaya from publishing it.

“I am glad that the book has now been published thanks to support from Bapak Made Mangku Pastika. I hope the book will benefit all of Bali,” he said.

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