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Ref ID: 22582
Ref Type: Book Section
Authors: de Jong, Willemijn
Title: Rice rituals, kinship identities and ethnicity in central Flores
Date: 2007
Source: Kinship and food in South East Asia
Place of Publication: Copenhagen, Denmark
Publisher: NIAS
Notes: Introduction: Rice is a scarce and prestigious alimentary resource among the people who live in the dry southern coastal area of Central Flores in Eastern Indonesia. Often, they are not able to grow enough food to meet the needs of their households. To get cash earnings, they depend to a large extent on the cottage industry of <i>ikat</i> weaving. The people call themselves <i>Ata Lio</i>, Lio people, but they differ in economic respects from those who live in the northern area of Central Flores where agricultural conditions are better. For convenience, I will use the term 'Southern Lio' for those who subsist on agriculture and weaving, and 'Northern Lio' for those who subsist on agriculture. I will not use these terms with regard to their identities, because the people do not explicitly identify themselves in this way. Among the Southern Lio, rituals concerning the production, exchange and consumption of rice are important in two contexts: in the yearly cycle of agricultural ceremonies, and in lifecycle ceremonies. After a brief description of the meaning of rice as the most basic prestige good in everyday life, I shall focus on the ritual practices of exchange and consumption of rice and infer from them transformations in kinship identities. It is not my intention here to interpret the symbolic meaning of ritual actions. My suggestion is that these ritual practices create social boundaries which are crucial for the construction of different kinds of kinship identities and also for ethnic identities. Specifically, while in the past agricultural rice rituals used to generate hierarchical identities related to the house and its ancestors, today life-cycle rituals create less hierarchical identities related to the house and its ancestors, today life-cycle rice rituals create less hierarchical identities for people, as wife givers and wife takers and as household members, particularly for women as wives with authority within their households. Further, I shall contend that with the decreasing importance of the agricultural rice rituals, which I was able to witness in one of the cultural centres of the Lio, a transformation in kinship identities is occuring. The Houses (<i>sa'o</i>), corporate socio-religious units based on patrilineal descent, are losing their former importance. I use the term 'Houses' further on to distinguish them from houses as physical structures. Together, the Houses used to constitute a rather bounded and politically autonomous village community. Nowadays, kinship identities related to household membership are becoming more prominent. Households of 'hearths' (<i>bu'u waja</i>) are, here, co-residential units of production and distribution based on the nuclear family. Through the ritual exchange of rice and other prestige goods, husbands and wives often create social networks today that far exceed the territory of the village. Compared with the exchange of rice, its shared consumption is of secondary importance in this context. With the shifting meanings of the agricultural and lifecycle ceremonies, kinship and ethnic identities are also shifting.
Date Created: 4/13/2015
Editors: Janowski, Monica
Kerlogue, Fiona
Volume: 38
Page Start: 196
Page End: 222
Series Title: NIAS Studies in Asian Topics