by Aurora Donzelli
National University of Singapore Press, 2020
Cloth: 978-981-325-114-4
Library of Congress Classification DS632.T7D66 2020

The Toraja highlanders of Indonesia use the expression “one or two words” to refer euphemistically to their highly elaborate form of political speechmaking. Taking off from this understatement, which signals the meaningfulness of transient acts of speech, One or Two Words offers an analysis of the shifting power relations between centers and peripheries in one of the world’s most linguistically diverse countries. Drawing on long-term fieldwork, Aurora Donzelli explores how people forge forms of collective belonging to a distinctive locality through the exchange of spoken words, WhatsApp messages, ritual gifts of pigs and buffaloes, and the performance of elaborate political speeches and ritual chants. Donzelli describes the complex forms of cosmopolitan indigeneity that have emerged in the Toraja highlands during several decades of encounters with a variety of local and international interlocutors, and by engaging wider debates on the dynamics of cultural and linguistic change in relationship to globalizing influences, the book sheds light on a neglected dimension of post-Suharto Indonesia: the recalibration of power relations between national and local languages. One or Two Words will be of interest to scholars of language, politics, power relationships, identity, social change, and local responses to globalizing influences.