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Paths of Origin, Gates of Life

A Study of Place and Precedence in Southwest Timor


A. McWilliam

Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, this work explores the historical and cultural dimensions of an indigenous Timorese domain in the southern central highlands of West Timor.
Informing the study of Timorese social and cultural practice is an interpretative framework based on the concept of precedence and the rich repertoire of indigenous metaphor and binary categories by which Timorese articulate and classify social relations. Ideas of place and precedence are central to an understanding of local status differences within and between hamlet settlements. They also inform the historical patterns of present-day settlements and help explain aspects of the broader historical expansion and migration of meto populations across much of West Timor.
For the little known region of Timor, this volume will be of interest to regional specialists, development planners and students of anthropology, seeking a more detailed understanding of indigenous history and sociality in this corner of the Lesser Sunda Islands of eastern Indonesia.


J. Rousseau

Kayan Religion is an ethnographic account of the rituals and beliefs of Central Borneo swidden agriculturists, written at the request of the Baluy Kayan of Sarawak to preserve their religion for future generations. With its extensive agricultural rituals, Kayan religion is organized around the agricultural cycle. Both priests and shamans are present; the latter limit themselves to curing rituals, while priests manage the annual cycle, life-cycle rituals, and familial rituals.
Like other groups in Southeast Asia, the Kayan have elaborate death rituals. The traditional Kayan religion ( adat Dipuy) was characterized by ritual head-hunting, animal omens, and a multiplicity of taboos. In the 1940s, a prophet revealed a new religion ( adat Bungan) in Central Borneo, with particular success in the Baluy area. In its initial stage, adat Bungan was a radical rejection of the old religion. However, in just a few years, a kind of counter-reformation occurred, led by aristocrats and priests, who reinstated most of the old rituals in a simplified and less onerous form.

The House of Our Ancestors

Precedence and Dualism in Highland Balinese Society


Thomas Reuter

The House of Our Ancestors is a study of the Mountain Balinese or Bali Aga, an ethnic group with a distinct history and culture who are thought to be the indigenous people of Bali, Indonesia. In popular ideas of Balinese identity, the highland people feature as the conceptual counterpart to the royal houses established in the southern lowlands of the island. Hidden in shadow of this courtly culture, the world of the highland Balinese has been largely ignored even though Bali counts among the most researched localities in the world. This book explores their social organization and status economy from the perspective of an innovative theory of ‘precedence’. Regional domains, villages and origin houses among the Bali Aga are all conceived and ranked in reference to the basic ideas of a sacred origin in the past, and of an order of precedence connecting the past with the present. The analysis of precedence ranking, evident at all levels of Bali Aga social organization, leads to the development of a new theory of status for Austronesian societies that departs radically from the notion of hierarchy as proposed by Louis Dumont in his classic study of the Indian caste system.


Edited by S.T. van Bemmelen, E. Touwen-Bouwsma and A. Niehof

This volume is the product of an international workshop on Women and Mediation, organized in Leiden in 1988 by the Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde (KITLV) and the Werkgroep Indonesische Vrouwenstudies (WIVS), a Dutch interdisciplinary study group on Indonesian women. The book contains a selection of fourteen contributions—sociological, anthropological, and historical—ranging geographically ‘from Sabang to Merauke’ from the Toba Batak (North Sumatra) to the Dani (Irian Jaya). Loosely centred around the concept of mediation, many of the articles include new data derived from archival research and fieldwork.
One cluster of articles concentrates on theoretical questions concerning the concept of mediation. Another cluster deals with brokerage in the economic and social fields. A third cluster focuses on mediation in the cultural domain, which many extend to mediation between different ‘cultures’(elite-agrarian, Western-Indonesian) or between the human and the suprahuman world, between macrocosm and microcosm.
Mediation by women has been overlooked not only in the social sciences in general but also in the field of women studies in particular. The present volume explores the theme of mediation by women in general, and in Indonesia in particular.

Beneath the Volcano

Religion, Cosmology and Spirit Classification among the Nage of Eastern Indonesia


Gregory L. Forth

Beneath the Volcano is the first major account of the Nage, who inhabit the central part of Flores in eastern Indonesia.
The book focuses on Nage ideas concerning a variety of spiritual beings and how these influence both ritual practices and ideas about human beings. In exploring these subjects, the author sets out to uncover a classification of spirits. While quite different from taxonomies of natural beings, Nage ways of linking named categories of spirits nevertheless reveal a regular conceptual order. In describing this order, use is made of a version of Dumont's notion of 'encompassment'. Common ideas informing relations between Nage humans and several categories of spirits are further interpreted as instances of a pervasive principle of 'symmetric inversion', according to which human beings are spirits for the spirits.

Juggling Money

Financial Self-Help Organizations and Social Security in Yogyakarta


Hotze Lont

This social-anthropological study, focusing on urban Indonesia, examines a variety of financial self-help organizations ( arisan and simpan pinjam) as instruments for dealing with financial difficulties related to illness, death, and unemployment. The author devotes ample attention to the embedding of these associations, and their participants, in a changing socio-economic and cultural environment, and to the important issues of agency, exclusion, trust, and social conflict. The book not only explains the workings of these fascinating collective arrangements, but also provides an interesting window on living conditions and social relations in an Indonesian urban community.
Indonesianists will find here a detailed description of an omnipresent aspect of Javanese socio-economic life, the only thorough analytical study of which has become somewhat outdated (C. Geertz, The rotating credit association: An instrument for development, Cambridge 1956).
In this UN Year of Microcredit, experts on informal finance and microfinance will value the explanation of the workings of financial self-help organizations, and its policy implications. The book critically examines the popular notion of financial self-help organizations as vehicles for development and nurseries for social capital.

Constituting Unity and Difference

Vernacular Architecture in a Minangkabau Village


M. Vellinga

The vernacular architecture of the Minangkabau in Sumatra constitutes one of the most popular and well-known building traditions in contemporary Indonesia. Yet, despite its fame, Minangkabau architecture has received remarkably little scholarly attention. What is known about the building tradition does not go beyond the romanticized popular image (of high-rising roof spires, floor elevations, and colourful woodcarvings) promoted by the government, the tourist industry, and the media. This image leaves too many questions about the meaning of Minangkabau architecture unanswered. Constituting Unity and difference refines, supplements, and revises the popular image. Focusing on the construction, design, and spatial use of vernacular houses in one region of West Sumatra, and taking into account historical developments and geographical variation, the author explores how vernacular Minangkabau houses are instrumental in the constitution, perpetuation, and manipulation of socio-political relationships and identities. He concludes that the current popular image of Minangkabau architecture is seriously in need of revision.
Anthropologists, architects, and those interested in Indonesian cultural history or vernacular architecture studies will value this in-depth analysis of one of the country's most striking and popular building traditions.

Guardians of the Land in Kelimado

Louis Fontijne’s Study of a Colonial District in Eastern Indonesia

Edited by Gregory L. Forth

In 1940, a Dutch colonial officer named Louis Fontijne (1902-1968) was commissioned to conduct an investigation of indigenous land tenure and leadership in the Residency of Timor and Dependencies. Dealing specifically with Kelimado, a region included in the Nage district of central Flores, its main product was a remarkable study of society and culture and the effects of over three decades of Dutch administration and Christian proselytizing. In regard to ethnographic detail and analytical insight, the work, entitled Grondvoogden in Kelimado, resembles more an academic thesis than a government report; yet another interest is Fontijne's forthright critique of colonial policy and recommendations for administrative reform.

Judith Schlehe

perspective. Rethinking pluralism should also include non-scriptural traditions and their dynamics. One aim of this paper is to reconsider magico-religious practices and alternative healing as an aspect of pluralism in present day Java. These practices are increasingly threatened to be considered

Mayengbam Nandakishwor Singh

). Harmony between state and religion is present in Taiwan as the result of democratization, while the relation between state and religion is chequered in Hong Kong owing to constant tussle between them. Part  I of the book comprises of five chapters that delve into wider dimensions about Chinese