The complexity of Banjar identity in balamut oral tradition

Sainul Hermawan, Mina Elfira

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In contrast to the tendency to homogenize the ethnic identity of the Banjar people of South Kalimantan, the oral tradition of balamut stands out as a mode of narrative identity formation that documents the encounter of Banjar identity with Dayak, Javanese, Malay, Islamic, and pre-Islamic identities. The relative simplicity of balamut performance, which consists of a single storyteller who punctuates developments in the storyline with percussive strokes on a frame drum, belies a rich history of oral literacy that was once common throughout the Malay world. It is important to reconsider this encounter again in the context of growing narrow ethnocentrism following the fall of the New Order regime that tended to exploit xenophobic sentiments to gain popular support in elections. By revealing the complexity of Banjar identity based on the oral tradition of balamut performance, this essay attempts to raise awareness about the importance of national unity and unity. Previous research has focused exclusively on the analysis of written texts, and therefore overlooks the various ethnic identities present in balamut performance. In this study, the relationship between text and storytellers is seen as a source of meaning that can elucidate the complexity of Banjar identity. Therefore, this study attempts to demonstrate that the identity of balamut storytellers greatly informs the complexity of Banjar identity. The main subject of our analysis is a balamut performance by Gusti Jamhar Akbar in 2011. This paper applies the theories of identity is constructed in this performance. We approach this question ethnographicallyin order to map the various ethnic encounters which inform the formation of Banjar identity. Our research found that Pak Jamhar's performance mixed Hindu and Islamic religious beliefs, while also incorporating Javanese, Dayak, Malay, and Banjar cultural elements. Indeed, the balamut performance of Gusti Jamhar is in itself a representation of the complexity of Banjar identity. Such complexity is a form of resistance against a form of identity politics that seeks to essentialize Banjar identity as ethnically and culturally homogenous.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNusantara's Indigenous Knowledge
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781536177725
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2020


  • Balamut
  • Banjar identity
  • Banjar oral tradition
  • Cultural resistance
  • Lamut performance


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