Dr. Jennifer Goodlander Receives Mellon Innovating International Research & Teaching Grant

Dr. Jennifer Goodlander performs Indonesian shadow pupper theatre, wayang kulit, at her Alma mater, Ohio University, in September 2011.

Congratulations to Dr. Jennifer Goodlander, Assistant Professor of Theatre History, Theory, and Literature and recent fellowship recipient in the first round of funding to IU Bloomington faculty from the Mellon Innovating International Research and Teaching Grant Program, funded by $750,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Jennifer plans to use her faculty felllowship to conduct field research in Indonesia and Cambodia in Summer 2013, studying how the arts, especially shadow puppetry, functions in the formation of Southeast Asian national identity.

“An IUB Professor Creates—and Performs with—Balinese Shadow Puppets” | Inside IU features Dr. Jennifer Goodlander

Dr. Jennifer Goodlander performs wayang kulit, a form of traditional Balinese shadow puppetry. Goodlander trained in the ancient art while studying for her doctoral degree on a Fulbright Fellowship in Indonesia.

Dr. Jennifer Goodlander, the newest Assistant Professor of History, Theory, and Literature in the Department of Theatre & Drama is this month’s Featured Spotlight in Inside IU, the online news magazine for faculty and staff at Indiana University Bloomington. According to Bethany Nolan’s intimate profile:

“If you’re lucky, [Jennifer Goodlander] will show you one of the brightly colored and intricately carved puppets she’s mastered use of through her studies of an ancient Balinese art form — wayang kulit, or shadow puppetry. … But watch her give an actual performance, and you’ll only see the puppets through a thin cloth screen. That’s because the show — and all the magnificence of those works of art — is meant for the gods. As part of the human audience, your eyes are allowed to see a mere shadow of the story.”

Goodlander became interested in traditional Balinese shadow puppetry while studying for her doctoral degree on a Fulbright Fellowship in Indonesia. Her research there focused on broadly women and performance, but after trying her hand at the ancient art form, her dissertation project shifted to include her own experience learning wayang kulit. Drawing upon her own experience of the practical training and ritual initiation to become a dalang, or puppeteer, coupled with interviews of early women dalangs and leading artists, she argues in her book manuscript (tentatively titled Women in the Shadows: Gender, Puppets, and the Power of Tradition in Bali) that “tradition” in Bali must be understood as a system of power that is inextricably linked to gender hierarchy.

Read more about Jennifer in the Inside IU Spotlight Profile, or on her faculty profile at theatre.indiana.edu.