Discuss the three interpretations put forward by scholars from the colonial and postcolonial periods.

Directions and Guidelines for the Take-Home Midterm Examination

The objective of this take-home midterm examination is to teach you how to

connect, to synthesize, and to assess critically and imaginatively the different

cultural, religious, artistic, aesthetic, concepts, ideas, race and ethnicity that I

have presented in class lectures. In addition, these themes (such as visual

narrative, religion, theory of aesthetic, ethnicity, race and the body) are discussed

in articles in your course reader. Please note that this is not a research paper so

you do not need to read literature other than what I have assigned in the course

reader (pdfs posted on eCommons under weekly readings).

Drawing upon material from class lectures, in-class discussions, and readings

included in your course reader, please write ONE three-page (i.e., minimum one

three-page–maximum five-page essay–per question), double-spaced essays

(with one-inch margins and 12 points font; be sure to number your pages),

answering ONE of the following questions below. When it is apt and the

questions call for it, please structure each essay around a thesis statement and

organize your thoughts and discussion of the images into a cohesive argument.

Please do not forget to number your pages, and please reference material in

proper footnotes (or endnotes). In order to help your TAs with grading, we ask

that you use the MLA (Modern Language Association) style of footnoting. Please

make use of the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL):


Note: should you need to learn how to footnote, this is a very useful online


Please note that we do not accept Web sites as sources (i.e., do not use Google or

Wikipedia for this assignment). We will only accept take-home midterm exam

essay submitted through eCommons. No late take-home exam essay will be

accepted! We will not read drafts of your take-home midterm essay; however, we

would be more than happy to discuss the exam questions with you during our

respective office hours so that we can teach you how to synthesize the materials


covered in class and further your knowledge about the art history and visual

cultures of Southeast Asia.

Warning: Failure to follow the above directions and guidelines will risk failure of

the take-home midterm exam.

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for information and thus it is very important that you avoid copying information

and writings from the internet and claim them as your own work. Please be

honest and respectful of copyright laws by footnoting and crediting your sources


Warning: If you get caught plagiarizing, you will get an automatic “F” on the

assignment and in the course. We will report your misconduct to the provost of

your respective colleges and your case will be handled according to the

regulations and policies as outlined in the above websites.

Take-Home Midterm Examination Questions

Note: Please keep in mind that this is a visual and material culture course and

images are our primary texts. Each of the following exam questions is

accompanied by a set of images (see the PowerPoint posted on eCommons). It is

important that you ground your discussion and arguments on the set of images

associated with each exam question. In addition, you need to demonstrate your

knowledge of the readings included in your course readers that are relevant to

the exam questions you are addressing.

1) Discuss the three interpretations put forward by scholars from the colonial

and postcolonial periods. Please ground your discussion of these three

interpretations in the images rendered on the tympanum and the body of

the drum. Which one of these three interpretations do you find most

convincing? Or, you might find that all three interpretations are

interrelated and convincing as an argument, but in any case, you must tell

us why. How do the images rendered on the “rain” or “frog” drum of the

karens and their functions (in present day Myanmar (Burma) shed lights

on meaning of images and functions of the Ngoc Lu Drum.

Note: Please provide date, material, and provenance (that is, where was it

found, and where is it located now) of the Ngoc Lu Drum.


2) Please provide date, name of patron, material, and provenance of

Borobudur and Prambanan temple. What religions do these two

respective monuments embodied? What is a visual narrative? How does

Aristotle define a narrative? How do the visual narrative of stories

rendered on stone bas reliefs at Borobudur and Prambanan temple

contradict Aristotle’s definition and requirement of a narrative? Discuss

how Hindu and Buddhist ritual movement dictates and thus parallels

with the direction in which visual narrative is supposed to be viewed at

Prambanan and Borobudur.

Note: Please be sure to look closely and analyze images of jatakas in the

PowerPoint posted on eCommons.

3) Please provide date, name of patron, material, and provenance of

Borobudur. What school(s)of Buddhism does Borobudur represent?

Discuss how the three spheres reflect the mental and bodily experience of

viewer/visitor at Borobudur. What does this experience tell us about the

relationship between body and mind in Buddhism? How does this mental

and physical experience engage with and reflect the Buddhist doctrine as

embodied by the edifice? Is Borobudur a stupa or a mandala, and why?

(Please be sure to define these two terms clearly.)

4) Imagine that you are an art historian and anthropologist (admittedly

anachronistic, but…) from the island of Sumba. You have just returned

from a six-month visit to the island of Java in the year 1541 CE. You came

from a culture of great megaliths, mamuli and hinggi. Two of the temples

you have visited on your tour of Java were Borobudur and the newly built

Chandi Sukuh. You are writing a letter back home to your family

explaining your physical and intellectual experience of these two temples.

How would you describe your physical, mental, and spatial experience of

Borobudur? Which one of these two temples is far more similar to your

Sumbanese culture? Compare and contrast the spatial experiences of these

two temples to your folks back home. You should get them all excited so

that they too will be curious enough to take the next boat to Java. Note:

Good fiction is always most factual, so please get the dates and history of

each temple straight. This is an opportunity for you to write a historically

grounded fictional narrative.

Warning: Question #4 is designed to foster the creative side of your imagination,

so please take this task and creative exam question seriously. We reserve the

right to give you an F on your exam essay should you be frivolous and facile

(this means: please don’t give us rubbish).

5) Discuss how the material cultures (i.e., style of clothing, jewelries,

ceramics) are visual markers of the Peranakan ethic identity in Indonesia,

Malaysia and Singapore. What does the term Peranakan mean? How does

this merging of an imported culture from China and the local cultures

through inter-ethnic marriage tell us about how ethnicity, race and

cultural identity are not fossilized or static, but evolving and thus


contribute to the invention of a new and different cultural identity in

multi-ethnic and multicultural “contact zones” in Malaysia, Singapore and

Indonesia? The term “contact zone” is used and defined by Mary Louise

Pratt as “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each

other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as

colonialism, slavery, or their aftermath as they are lived out in many parts

of the world today.”1

Note: You can limit your discussion in question 4 to one nation if it helps you

to focus on one particular “contact zone” where different ethnic groups and

cultures meet.

6) Discuss the significance of shadow puppets and shadow play in the

Javanese and Balinese culture of Indonesia. What is the meaning of

shadow in this art form? How might one interpret and understand a

shadow puppet? Is it a painting, a piece of sculpture, an instrument for

performance and storytelling or all of the above? Discuss the four clowns

in Indonesian shadow play? What are their names? How are they related

to each other? Are they simply “sidekicks” meant to provide laughter? If

not, what subversive and moral roles do they play?

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