A History of Lun Tauh Our People at the Borders of the Kelabit Highlands : from Warfare to the Life of Government and to the Life of Christianity

Mashman, Valerie Anne (2018) A History of Lun Tauh Our People at the Borders of the Kelabit Highlands : from Warfare to the Life of Government and to the Life of Christianity. PhD thesis, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS).

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Abstract

The Kelabit are about to forget their past. This is because since embracing evangelical Christianity in the 1940s, they no longer recite epics, legends or narratives relating to warfare, headhunting and their previous belief-system. This thesis provides an unprecedented insight into Kelabit values and their worldview through the recital of three historical narratives from a longhouse on the edge of the Kelabit highlands, located in northern Sarawak, one of the East Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. The first narrative is about warfare and the migrations of lun tauh, “our people.” The second is about the life of government and the third story is about the life of Christian prayer. The aim of this study is to provide a context and understanding of the purpose of the headman-narrator in telling the narratives using an anthropological approach to deal with his subjectivity. The research problem is to establish the meanings of these three oral historical narratives, of three different episodes in longhouse history, which the narrator calls “stories of history” cerita sejarah. Geertz’ interpretative approach using the process of “jungle fieldwork,” entails letting the narratives shape the research journey. Although these three narratives are about episodes that mark transformational change, I argue that there is an underlying continuity uncovered through the value system which prizes the quality of doo’- ness, goodness, or prestige which is both inherited at birth and acquired through effort. This provides an opportunity for an analysis of the mobility (iyuk) of value which continuously generates the standards of doo’-ness which enhance social relationships and provide the means for the bringing together and consolidation of lun tauh, “our people”. Furthermore, another continuity through the narratives is the voice of the headman-narrator who urges for the conventional values of unity and peace in the longhouse at a time when his authority is facing challenges. In the process, I uncover another common thread that runs through each of the three narratives, the quest for the good life, ulun nuk doo’. In the first narrative, this is at Long Di’it where “our people,” lun tauh find the soil is fertile for abundant harvests of rice. In the second narrative, the good life is living the life of government, with consensus in the community, reinforced by the values of peace-making. In the final narrative, the good life comes in the era of the life of prayer; a time that is free from omens, a time of change, yet a time for extended sociality and living close to the Penan. This is history garnered through the value indigenous people give to their experiences, which is unlike national and post-colonial histories that represent people on the margins as the helpless victims of colonial power. This approach to history can only be fulfilled by using oral histories which demonstrate how indigenous peoples manage their lives through their value system and how these perceptions account for their actions. This affirms their agency and their capacity to impact episodes of history.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Thesis (PhD) -- Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 2018.
Uncontrolled Keywords: historical narratives, interpretation, value system, ethnicity, change, unimas, university, universiti, Borneo, Malaysia, Sarawak, Kuching, Samarahan, ipta, education, Postgraduate, research, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Academic Faculties, Institutes and Centres > Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities
Depositing User: Gani
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2019 01:39
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2019 01:39
URI: http://ir.unimas.my/id/eprint/26608

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