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Ben Arps

Professor Indonesian and Javanese Language and Culture

Prof.dr. B. Arps
+31 71 527 2222

Ben Arps is a Professor of Indonesian and Javanese Language and Culture at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies.

More information about Ben Arps

Fields of interest

Ben Arps works at the interface of the humanities and humanistic social sciences. What fascinates him most is worldmaking by means of language, performance, and media, especially in encounters between religious and intellectual traditions. He has particular interests in the theory and methods of philology (conceived as the artefact-focused study of worldmaking); the theory and methods of Area Studies; narrativity in culture; Islam; audio media and audioscapes; and the relevance of the past in and for the present.

Geographically and culturally, his research centres on Indonesia and the Malay world, with a core interest in Java and its diasporas. He teaches about Southeast Asia.

Brief bio

Ben Arps is attached to the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), where he teaches primarily in the BA programme in South and Southeast Asian Studies, and the MA programmes in Asian Studies. Before coming to Leiden in 1993 he lectured in Indonesian and Javanese at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1988–1993). In Leiden he was chair of the former Department of Languages and Cultures of Southeast Asia and Oceania in 1995, 1999/2000, 2003–2006, and 2008. He has been Fellow-in-Residence at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (2001/02), a Visiting Fellow in the Faculty of Asian Studies and the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University (2005), the Netherlands Visiting Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan (2006/07), a Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Religion and Globalization in Asia cluster of the Asia Research Institute (ARI) and an Isaac Manasseh Meyer Fellow in the Department of Malay Studies, both at the National University of Singapore (2011/12), and a Visiting Professor at Universitas Sebelas Maret in Surakarta, Indonesia (2017).


Ben Arps is interested in supervising MA theses and doctoral theses on aspects of worldmaking by means of languages, performance, and media in Southeast Asia. For the doctoral and MA theses he has supervised see here.

Key publications

Authored books and major articles

More information on Ben Arps’ publications is available on Academia and his personal website.

[In press.] “Drona’s betrayal and Bima’s brutality: javanaiserie in Malay culture.” [To appear in a volume on the Ramayana and Mahabharata in Malay and Javanese literature, ed. by Willem van der Molen and Ding Choo Ming. Singapore: ISEAS.]

2016. Tall Tree, Nest of the Wind: The Javanese Shadow-Play Dewa Ruci Performed by Ki Anom Soeroto. A Study in Performance Philology. Singapore: NUS Press. [x + 634 pp.]

2016. “Flat puppets on an empty screen, stories in the round: imagining space in wayang kulit and the worlds beyond.” Wacana: Journal of the Humanities of Indonesia [Brill] 17(3):438–472.

2011. “The lettuce song and its trajectory: the vagaries of a pop song in three eras.” In: Proceeding seminar internasional (musik) vokal, Festival Kesenian Indonesia (FKI) VII (Voice of the Archipelago Festival) Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) Surakarta, pp. 28–42. Surakarta: Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) Surakarta, Departemen Pendidikan Nasional.

2009. “Osing Kids and the Banners of Blambangan: ethnolinguistic identity and the regional past as ambient themes in an East Javanese town.” Wacana: Jurnal Ilmu Pengetahuan Budaya 11(1):1–38.

2000 (co-authored with Els Bogaerts, Willem van der Molen, Ignatius Supriyanto, and Jan van den Veerdonk, with the collaboration of Betty Litamahuputty). Hedendaags Javaans: een leerboek. [Contemporary Javanese: a coursebook.] Leiden: Opleiding Talen en Culturen van Zuidoost-Azië en Oceanië, Universiteit Leiden. Semaian, 20. [xxvii + 581 pp.]

2000 (introd. and trans.). “Déwa Rutji: avontuur en wijsheid in een Javaans verhaal.” [Dewa Ruci: adventure and wisdom in a Javanese story.] In: Harry Poeze (ed.), Oosterse omzwervingen: klassieke teksten over Indonesië uit Oost en West [Eastern peregrinations: classical texts about Indonesia from East and West], pp. 81–119, 215–216. Leiden: KITLV Uitgeverij.

1999. “How a Javanese gentleman put his library in order.” Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 155(3):416–469. [Special issue of Bijdragen entitled Encompassing knowledge: indigenous encyclopedias from ninth-century Java to twentieth-century Riau, edited by Tony Day and Will Derks.]

1996. “The Song Guarding at Night: grounds for cogency in a Javanese incantation.” In: Stephen C. Headley (ed.), Towards an anthropology of prayer: Javanese ethnolinguistic studies, pp. 47–113. Aix-en-Provence: Publications de l’Université de Provence.

1994 (with W. van der Molen). “Introduction.” In: Bernard Arps and Willem van der Molen (eds.), Serat Lokapala kawi: an eighteenth-century manuscript of the Old Javanese Arjunawijaya by Mpu Tantular. A facsimile edition of manuscript Cod. Or. 2048 in the Library of Leiden University, pp. v–xlvi. Leiden: Indonesian Linguistics Development Project (ILDEP) in co-operation with Legatum Warnerianum in the Library of Leiden University. Manuscripta Indonesica, 3.

1992. Tembang in two traditions: performance and interpretation of Javanese literature. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. [xiii + 485 pp.]

1991. “Antara ‘nêmbang’ dan ‘maca’: dampak ilmu pengetahuan dan teknologi modern pada pembacaan puisi Jawa tradisional di Yogyakarta.” [Between ‘singing’ and ‘reciting’: the impact of scholarship and modern technology on the performance of traditional Javanese poetry in Yogyakarta.] Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia: Jurnal Masyarakat Musikologi Indonesia 2(2):69–118.

Professor Indonesian and Javanese Language and Culture

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SAS Indonesie

Professor Indonesian and Javanese Language and Culture

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SAS Indonesie


  • No relevant ancillary activities
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