Work Teams

An important feature of the organization of Balinese society is the involvement of almost everyone in religious activities such as the preparation of food and ornaments for offerings These activities often take place in teams in which everyone can observe everyone else--and learn from them or correct their performance. The pictures show men preparing satay for a temple fest: minced, spiced meat is carefully pressed upon a wooden stick before it is barbecued over an open fire. The men were grouped into teams during this morning of preparations: each team and some solos were assigned a specific task in the preparation, cooking, and arranging of food, as well as the fabrication of ornaments and food baskets out of banana leaves.

Men preparing satay to offer to the gods during a temple fest



A feature of Balinese manual culture that was already noticed by Bateson and Mead is the cultivation of the tactile aspect of actions, i.e. the very subtle application of pressure by the finger-tips to the malleable substance of meat. Bateson and Mead wrote of “emphasis on the separateness of the fingers and on the sensory function of their tips” (Bateson & Mead, 1942: 100). This is visible in these picture: men engage in a kind of work for which tactility--a highly refined sensitivity of the fingertips--is indispensable. In mainstream U.S. society, such activities would likely be considered "feminine".


Occasionally one sees men who have let their fingernails grow to several inches; these elongated nails constrain the ways in which the hands can grasp: objects can only be grasped with the fingertips, which presumably enhances their tactility and the way in which their owner experiences the world through touch.


The cultivation of tactile perception skills extends to other areas of everyday life. Many men, for example, own fighting cocks, which they constantly fondle—sensing the state of their feathers, muscles, and skin; they massage and bathe them and ruffle their feathers. Here, too, the fingertips and their acquired perception skills play a central role.



Precision Grip

Exqually important is the practiced ability of Balinese hands to perform minute precision grips with the finger tips, to exert pressure with precision in handling miniature objects.

Making ornaments from satay and red pepper.


Making an ornamental basket from palm leaves for an offering