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Origins, Ancestry and Alliance

Origins, Ancestry and Alliance: Explorations in Austronesian Ethnography OPEN ACCESS

James J. Fox
Clifford Sather
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Origins, Ancestry and Alliance
    Book Description:

    This collection of papers, the third in a series of volumes on the work of the Comparative Austronesian Project, explores indigenous Austronesian ideas of origin, ancestry and alliance and considers the comparative significance of these ideas in social practice. The papers examine social practice in a diverse range of societies extending from insular Southeast Asia to the islands of the Pacific.

    eISBN: 978-1-920942-87-8
    Subjects: Anthropology
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Table of Contents

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  1. James J. Fox

    This is the third in a series of volumes produced in the Departme of Anthropology from the work of the Comparative Austronesian Project.¹ The first of these volumes examined the comparative design of Austronesian houses and related these spatial forms to the social and ritual practices of their resident groups. The second volume provided a general survey of the Austronesians focusing on their common origins and historical transformations. This third volume explores indigenous Austronesian ideas of origin, ancestry and alliance and considers the comparative significance of these ideas in social practice. As a collection, these papers offer a variety of...

  2. Peter Bellwood

    Is it possible to correlate the earliest colonizing movements of Austronesian-speaking peoples into Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the myriad islands of Oceania² with the existence of a hereditary élite stratum of society? How far back in time can such élites be traced and can their genesis be related in any way to the colonization process itself? And how were the social systems of the earliest Austronesian groups, especially in Melanesia, affected by contact with pre-existing societies, perhaps similar in terms of economy and technology but fundamentally different in terms of social ideology?

    The literature on aspects of...

  3. Jukka Siikala

    For quite some time the Polynesian hierarchical systems seemed to be so simple. They were formed through chiefly lineages, in which a system of primogeniture reigned. Those, who were genealogically closest to the gods were also socially superior, and this divinely derived superiority was inherited from first born to first born (Koskinen 1960; Sahlins 1958). This normative notion of early anthropological literature has found its way to the islands through the literary interpretations of western anthropologists to such a degree that it has been constantly recollected in the field. But the origin of this kind of account cannot be found...

  4. Ken-ichi Sudo

    The traditional political communities of the central Caroline Islands, from Ulithi to Namonuito Atoll, are characteristically small. A politically autonomous community may consist of a single village, a district or a small island, each composed of matrilineal descent groups. The total population of an island or an atoll is, on average, less than 800 persons and its land area is at most five square kilometres in extent. Some scholars have suggested that institutionalized chieftainship in Micronesia, as a form of suprafamilial authority, is directly related to surplus food production (e.g. Mason 1968). Therefore, due to their meagre resource base, the...

  5. Clifford Sather

    The characterization of societies as ʺegalitarianʺ — in Borneo as elsewhere in the non-Western world — has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years (Boehm 1993; Flanagan and Rayner 1988; Flanagan 1989; Woodburn 1982). Even so, despite this newfound interest, compared to ʺhierarchyʺ, notions of equality have been far less explored in the anthropological literature. Part of the reason is almost certainly as Flanagan (1989:261) suggests: that equality tends to be ʺnaturalizedʺ in the social sciences and so regarded as the proto-cultural condition out of which structures of inequality are presumed to have developed by evolutionary differentiation (cf. Fried 1967)....

  6. Aram A. Yengoyan

    This paper develops two major themes of Mandaya social structure which operate at different levels of social and political activity. One of these principles or themes is the structure of hierarchy or precedence which operates primarily at the political level of leadership and warfare as it articulates the domination of the centre or points of origin to the periphery of social life. In this context the dominant expression of precedence is based on the political role of the bagani (the warrior class) and the various sub-units of political authority which traditionally inhabited the lands of the Mandaya. The second theme...

  7. James J. Fox

    This paper forms part of an extended argument that is concerned with ideas of origin and precedence among Austronesian-speaking populations (Fox 1988a, 1989, 1990, 1994, 1995). It examines the way in which culturally specific ideas of origin give rise to different forms of social precedence in a number of societies in eastern Indonesia. As such, the paper is also concerned with comparison. It explores, within a particular region, the possibilities of comparison among societies that share a common heritage of ideas — in this case, expressed in terms of related concepts of origin.

    The context for this argument was set...

  8. E. D. Lewis

    Both the people (ata) of Tana ʹAi and of Sikka, who inhabit the Regency of Sikka in east central Flores, refer to the past and, specifically, to myths of origin to explain the ʺsourcesʺ of the various groups which constitute their societies. The mapping of contemporary social organization onto events of the past and the invocation of mythic histories to explain the contemporary relations of social groups is significant in attempting to explain the apparent rank ordering of the social groups. Thus, in east central Flores, the legitimation of contemporary forms of social order is founded in contingent sequences of...

  9. Michael P. Vischer

    The island of Paluʹé,² located off the north coast of Flores, covers seventy square kilometres and consists of a population of approximately 10,000. It is divided into fourteen separate territorial, political and ceremonial domains known as tana. One of the remarkable features of the island is the absence of accessible drinking water. During the long dry season its inhabitants rely mainly on the juice of the lontar palm (Borassus flabellifer or Sundaicus) for their daily intake of fluid. Water for cooking is tapped from banana trunks, bamboo and from a number of trees, and in some places volcanic steam is...

  10. Barbara Dix Grimes

    On the eastern Indonesian island of Buru people express ideas about origin and cause with metaphors based on the imagery of a living plant or tree. The roots and trunk of a tree (lahin) and the young leaves which appear at the tips of the branches (luken) are the culturally significant points of reference for these metaphors. Many events, including sickness, litigations and warfare as well as simple narrations and tape recordings, are conceptually structured in terms of beginning at a ʺrootʺ (lahin) and having ʺyoung leaf tipsʺ (luken) as their end result or consequence. As they say on Buru,...

  11. Sandra Pannell

    Writing of local origin ʺmythsʺ from the ʺTimorese Archipelagoʺ and the ʺMoluccasʺ, F.A.E. van Wouden observes that ʺone is struck by the remarkable points of resemblance … [between] … the system delineated in these myths … [and] … the structure of societyʺ (1968:195). The legitimating potential of local origin narratives alluded to by van Wouden has also been discussed in a number of more recent studies² of cultural groups in ʺEastern Indonesiaʺ although few of these works extend the analysis of ʺmythʺ beyond the charter paradigm originally proposed by Malinowski (1926) and adopted by van Wouden.

    In conceptualizing myth narratives...

  12. Aletta Biersack

    Tongan haʹa are agnatically grouped clusters of titles that are ranked according to a rule of historical — and, in the case of the apical ancestor, mythical — emergence or precedence (cf. Fox 1994, 1995). Since elder brother outranks younger brother and father outranks son, ʺelder brotherʺ or ʺfatherʺ titles outrank ʺyounger brotherʺ or ʺsonʺ titles, the ʺbranchesʺ (vaʹavaʹa) of the Tongan ramage or ʺorigin structureʺ (Fox 1988) being graded according to relative proximity to an original ʺrootʺ (tefito). Mythically, if not historically, this root is the Tuʹi Tonga or high chief of Tonga (Figure 1) (Sahlins 1958:ch.1). While these...

  13. F. David Bulbeck

    The traditional political systems of the Malay and Bugis worlds, northern Sumatra and Java, produced a high frequency of female rulers by world standards (Reid 1988:169-172). Nonetheless the élite titles in these systems still tended to be inherited patrilineally even though very different descent principles, usually bilateral but even matrilineal, operated within society as a whole (e.g. Gullick 1958; Palmier 1969; de Josselin de Jong 1980:10; Millar 1989:25). Fox observes that élite patrilinealism within a bilateral system is only one variant, albeit the most common, of a widespread tendency for Austronesian élites to claim a separate origin from commoners and...

  14. Charles O. Frake

    Hierarchy is a feature of social systems whereby a ranking is attributed to socially-defined subjects of discourse. Ordinarily we think of these ranked subjects as individuals. But the rank of an individual as a subject vis-à-vis some other individual must be defined in terms of a field of scope of that rank. Thus I might rank very high within my department but, because of my departmentʹs low rank within the university, I am scorned by the dean and ignored by the provost. Yet because of my universityʹs high rank among universities, I am accorded deference by my colleagues elsewhere in...