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Ref ID: 22600
Ref Type: Book Section
Authors: Benjamin, Geoffrey
Title: Egalitarianism and ranking in the Malay world
Date: 2011
Source: Anarchic solidarity: autonomy, equality, and fellowship in Southeast Asia
Place of Publication: New Haven, Connecticut
Publisher: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies
Abstract: The Malay World is a region of much greater indigenous socio-cultural complexity than the label would suggest. In addition to speakers of Austronesian-derived Malayic languages in the Peninsula, Sumatra and coastal Borneo, there are some fifteen ethnolinguistic groups who speak Mon-Khmer languages. Historically, these indigenous populations have followed a variety of appropriative modes, including nomadic foraging (forest, strand and maritime), farming (swidden, swamp and irrigated), lake and maritime fishing, the collecting of forest and maritime products for trade, and long-distance inter-regional trading. Their socio-political circumstances have ranged from tribal, through peasants and hereditary state-linked elites linked to long-distance trade, to citizens of modern nation-states. The influence of the various centres of civilization that were present in the region in pre-modern times was also of key importance: coastal trading states, colonial-response states, inland sacred-city (or ‘middle kingdom’) states and cultural suppletion (or mainland migration) states. While some of these were nested into mandala-like or ‘galactic’ polities, the others had quite different consequences. Egalitarianism and ranking in the region both derive in large measure from the emergence of certain structural features – concerning relative-age, unifiliative bias, preferential marriage patterns, and so on – all serving to maintain mutually distinctive societal regimes within the broader regional framework. Earlier theories explained this array as resulting from distinct migratory ‘waves’, but current evidence (from archaeology, linguistics, kinship and social organization, religion, genetics, and other disciplines) suggests that it emerged mostly indigenously through a series of deliberate mutual adjustments, both assimilatory and dissimilatory, between populations that were each seeking mutual advantages vis-à-vis each other. The paper reviews previous work on the topic, and discusses the mechanisms by which the distinctive Melayu form of social organization emerged out of a more generally Malayic one.
Date Created: 3/30/2015
Editors: Gibson, Thomas
Sillander, Kennethq
Page Start: 170
Page End: 201