Mei 22, 2014

The New Historical Anthropology of Highland Southeast Asia: A Case Study from Central Sumatra

Heinzpeter Znoj, “The New Historical Anthropology of Highland Southeast Asia: A Case Study from Central Sumatra”, disampaikan dalam Konferensi EuroSEAS Ke-6 di Universitas Gothenburg, Swedia, 25-29 Agustus 2010.


AS TANIA Li (Transforming the Indonesian Uplands: Marginality, Power and Production, 1999) has observed, in Indonesian–and by extension, in Southeast Asian–studies a striking division of labor among the disciplines has existed until recently. Historical and political economic studies traditionally focused on the lowlands, where political power, trade and social and economic change were supposedly located exclusively, while anthropological studies focused on the highlands, where local culture seemed to survive against the odds of general modernization and state integration. A difference in method certainly contributed to this division of labor. Written sources and statistics, that could later be studied by historians and political economists, tended strongly to be produced in the coastal areas, where the maritime powers–among them the colonial powers before the 20th century–were located. Far less written data were produced in and about the highlands, which therefore became the focus of anthropology, whose fieldwork method of participant observation was ideally suited for the investigation of such small-scale “traditional” and “authentic” societies. Anthropologists’ focus on oral sources often led to the negligence of written sources about the highlands, so that their interpretation from a coastal perspective remained unchallenged. Consequently, and in accordance with the then current orientalist de-temporalization and de-contextualization of the ethnographic object, ethnographies of these societies treated them in isolation from outside developments.

This division of labour among the disciplines has become much less pronounced not in the least under the impact of interdisciplinary area studies programs since the 1960s and the 1970s. Anthropologists of Southeast Aisa are far more history-conscious now than a generation ago.

I will present the short case study of a particular rice-growing calendar that exists exclusively in the highlands of Jambi province in Sumatra, i.e. the planting and harvesting of rice according to the Hijrah, the Islamic luni-solar year. I will demonstrate that it cannot be understood without a combination of ethnographic and historical data and show that its historical-anthropological interpretation opens up new perspectives on the anti-colonial resistance against the Netherland’s Indies, and how it continues to shape local society up to today.[]

0 komentar: