Forshee, Jill 1956-

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FORSHEE, Jill 1956-


Born 1956, in Canada; daughter of Harold and Erma (McMurter) Forshee; married Pierre Horn, April 7, 1998. Education: California State University, Sonoma, B.A., 1987; University of California, Berkeley, M.A., 1990, Ph.D., 1996. Hobbies and other interests: Cooking, gardening, travel, art.


Home—680 North Bush St., Ukiah, CA 95482; fax: 707-463-1157. Office—Center for Southeast Asia Studies, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720. E-mail—[email protected].


Anthropologist and curator. University of California, Santa Cruz, lecturer in anthropology, 1996; University of California, Berkeley, curator at Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, 1996-97, research fellow at Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1997-98, 2002—, visiting scholar, 2001-present. Guest cocurator at Museum voor Volkenkunde, Rotterdam, Holland, 1998-99; Northern Territory University, Darwin, Australia, research fellow at Centre for Southeast Asia Studies, 1998-2001.


American Ethnological Society, Society for Visual Anthropology, American Anthropological Association, Association for Asian Studies, Textile Society of America, American Council for South Asian Art, Council for Museum Anthropology.


Wenner-Gren fellow, 1992-93; Fulbright scholar, 1993-94; Australian Research Council fellow, 1999-2002; Harry J. Benda Prize nomination, University of Hawaii Press, 2002, for Between the Folds: Stories of Cloth, Lives, and Travels.


(Editor with Christina Fink and Sandra Cate) Converging Interests: Traders, Travelers, and Tourists in Southeast Asia, International and Area Studies Press/University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley, CA), 1999.

Between the Folds: Stories of Cloth, Lives, and Travels from Sumba, University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, HI), 2001.


Contributor to books, including Sumba: Decorative Arts and Social Life, Pepin Press (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1999; Altered States: Material Culture and Shifting Contexts in the Arafura Region, edited by Clayton Fredericksen and Ian Walters, Northern Territory University Press (Darwin, Australia), 2001; Gender/Tourism/Fun?, edited by Margaret Swain, Cognizant Communications Corp. (Elmsford, NY), 2001; and A State of Emergency: Violence, Society and the State in Eastern Indonesia, edited by Sandra Pannell, Northern Territory University Press (Darwin, Australia), 2003. Contributor to periodicals, including Indonesia and the Malay World, Museum News, Indonesia (Cornell University Southeast Asia Program), American Ethnologsit, and Asian Pacific Journal of Anthropology.


Culture and Customs of Indonesia, for Greenwood Press, 2006; Objects of Value and Narratives of Loss: Arts and Collecting through Turbulent Times on Sumba and Timor Islands.


Anthropologist Jill Forshee has been fascinated with the Indonesian people and culture ever since she visited that region as a tourist in 1981. As an anthropologist, Forshee was intrigued by Indonesian artistry and local people's ability to see the vast potential in an international market for their arts. Inspired by that initial trip Forshee pursued her curiosity, which has resulted in the books Between the Folds: Stories of Cloth, Lives, and Travels from Sumba and the co-edited Converging Interests: Traders, Travelers, and Tourists in Southeast Asia.

In Between the Folds, an examination of Sumbanese textile production, Forshee "delightfully brings together the lives of weavers, designers, and cloth traders" according to Alexia Bloch in American Ethnologist. Using stories of individual artisans to augment her ethnographic analysis, Forshee depicts how the southeast Asian island's traditional craft and culture has been influenced by the modernizing aspects of expanded, global trade. In a review for the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies Fiona Kerlogue criticized the author's writing style, saying "parts of this book are not an easy read" but concluded that the work "has merit in the freshness of the stories which it presents." Conversely, Janet Hoskins, in a SEAP Indonesia review, called the work "a beautifully rendered and brightly illustrated volume." And Elizibeth Morrell, writing in Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, deemed Between the Folds "a sophisticated and analytical traveller's tale with cloth as the central theme."

Converging Interests: Traders, Travelers, and Tourists in Southeast Asia, which Forshee coedited with Christina Fink and Sandra Cate, focuses on the interaction between tourists and local villagers throughout southeast Asia. The book is geared toward an academic audience and includes many case studies from sample regions, giving the editor's work a wide and credible perspective. Gavan Cushnahan commented in an Oceaniareview that Converging Interests "is very readable, and like most offerings on tourism topics, appears to make a point of limiting jargon, and explaining complex theoretic constructs." Malcolm Crick, reviewing the work in the Australian Journal of Anthropology, was more critical of the collection, stating that more could "have been done to push the volume overall in a theoretical direction," but he nonetheless complimented the work, stating that "all of the substantive chapters in this book are of high quality."

Forshee told CA: "I began my writing career when I became an anthropologist, which followed years of working in various capacities as an artist. I wanted to write about people's lives and arts in Southeast Asian cultural contexts, in ways that would bring them to life and 'de-exoticize' them for readers.

"My interest in Indonesia grew out of an initial visit as a tourist in 1981. I first wrote about pedicab drivers in Java (1999), trying to convey something of the way the urban poor in Indonesia strategically attempt to improve their lots in life by becoming middlemen between local arts merchants and foreign tourists. While visiting the island of Sumba in eastern Indonesia in 1990, I became intrigued by how people of that remote island were producing and trading 'traditional' and vividly pictorial textiles with a keen awareness of an international market for ethnic arts.

"After living on the island for fifteen months in 1992-93, I wrote Between the Folds: Stories of Cloth, Lives, and Travels from Sumba, in which I told the individual stories of a range of people, in terms of their society, individuality, travels, desires, foibles, and involvement with fabrics—the book is well-illustrated with color and black and white photographs. What emerged were vivid, personal accounts of people and arts of a specific region of Indonesia through an era of profound change. The book illustrates how these people had and would continue to mix in complex histories arising near and far from their homes and live through what are always 'modern' times, and how this might be revealed through arts.

"I'm now working on a book about a kind of folklore of lost objects of value on the islands of Sumba and Timor, also to include the new nation of East Timor. Over the past four years I have been researching stories of the theft, destruction, or sale of often-sacred possessions during times of economic hardship and even warfare. I am writing a kind of ethnography of the movement of objects and the stories that follow them. This is particularly poignant in East Timor, in the wake of massive destruction in 1999 and an international market demand for 'arts' that are in truth often the spoils of war. I am also beginning a book entitled Culture and Customs of Indonesia, to be published by Greenwood Press in 2006, as part of the "Culture and Customs of Asia" series.

"Many cultural anthropologists—especially those working in Indonesia, such as Clifford Geertz, Hildred Geertz, Edward Bruner, Janet Hoskins, Marie Jeanne Adams, and others—have influenced my writing. But I also love literature of all sorts, and writers from George Orwell to Annie Proulx have inspired me. The subjects for my writing come from fieldwork in the southeast Asian regions I write about, and usually five to six months pass after I return to the United States before I can wrestle anything from my notes, current reading, and emerging ideas of my own. The real work is in making all the connections while allowing a humanity to survive whatever theory comes out of my writing. I think that it is crucial to do justice to the people you write about as an anthropologist, especially since ethnography is so much a matter of translation and interpretation. By this I mean that something of the actual words and lives of people under study should emerge for the reader, apart from the anthropologist's concern for placing them under a theoretical rubric. Places in Indonesia and East Timor have a way of taking you in for life. This is what continues to inspire me. I feel compelled to return to the people and places I've written about—to experience what's new in their ongoing stories and just to visit friends again."



American Ethnologist, August, 2003, Alexia Bloch, review of Between the Folds: Stories of Cloth, Lives, and Travels from Sumba, p. 623.

Australian Journal of Anthropology, December, 2001, Malcolm Crick, review of Converging Interests, p. 389.

Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, October, 2002, Fiona Kerlogue, review of Between the Folds: Stories of Cloth, Lives, and Travels from Sumba, p. 570.

Oceania, June, 2001, Gavan Cushnahan, review of Converging Interests: Traders, Travelers, and Tourists in Southeast Asia, p. 336.

Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, spring, 2001, Elizabeth Morrell, review of Between the Folds: Stories of Cloth, Lives, and Travels from Sumba, pp. 144-145.

SEAP Indonesia, October, 2002, Janet Hoskins, review of Between the Folds: Stories of Cloth, Lives, and Travels from Sumba, pp. 175-178.

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Forshee, Jill 1956-

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