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Continuity and Change in Brunei Darussalam: A Celebration and Evaluation of the Work of Professor Donald E. Brown.

It is fifty years since Professor Donald Brown undertook anthropological research in Brunei (1967-68) which led to his seminal volume Brunei: The Structure and History of a Bornean Malay Sultanate published by The Brunei Museum as a monograph in 1970. He also wrote several related papers on the history and social organization of Brunei. These have become standard references for our understanding and appreciation of the society, culture, and history of the Brunei sultanate. In any scholarly historical and social-science-based research on Brunei, and on historically and culturally related territories in Borneo and on Malay states more generally, Brown's work is frequently cited. Though other studies were undertaken after the publication of Brown's monograph, without Brown's work we would have had no major scholarly points of reference before the declaration of the full independence of Negara Brunei Darussalam from the British Crown on I January 1984. It so happened that Brown was also in Brunei at the time when His Majesty Sultan Haji Sir Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzadin Waddaulah succeeded his father, Sultan Sir Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the Seri Begawan, in 1967 so that there is a happy coincidence to mark and evaluate Brown's achievements at the time when Brunei has only recently celebrated the 50th jubilee of their Sultan's reign. The present Sultan's official coronation was held in August 1968 just after Brown had completed his fieldwork and departed from Brunei. Brown's research comprised a six-month period in the London archives from July up to December 1966 and then for one month in May 1968, and field research in Brunei from early January 1967 through to April 1968, funded by the London-Cornell project.

The proposed volume to celebrate and evaluate Donald Brown's achievements has been accepted for publication by Routledge. It is designed to bring together scholars from within Brunei and beyond and to address various themes which Professor Brown covered in his wide-ranging volume. These comprise chapters on (1) the history and historiography of Brunei from the pre-Islam ic period through to the present time (particular attention will be paid to the last 50 years of the Sultan's reign); (2) the organization of Brunei society, cultural changes from the nineteenth century and interpretations of those changes; (3) transformations in Kampong Ayer (the 'Water Village') and what was then (in the 1960s) Brunei Town (now Bandar Seri Begawan), especially the processes and effects of the resettlement of residents from Kampong Ayer to land-based sites and the character of'water villages'; the natural and cultural heritage values of the settlement will also be examined; and the wider importance of 'water villages' in Borneo (4) the relationships between minority populations (especially Dusun, Kedayan, Tutong) and the Brunei Malay sultanate in terms of identities, administration, language, and culture; and (5) key events in Brunei history, including origins, coronations, and the recent jubilee celebrations. The volume is organized in four sections: (1) pre-colonial (2) colonial and post-colonial Brunei; (3) the sultanate and its minorities; (4) Kampong Ayer and its transformations.

Donald Brown has also kindly written a Prologue to the book which comprises reflections on his research and connections with Brunei and provides a context for the evaluation of his work. His main concerns expressed in the Prologue also provide the structure for the book. However, scholarly publications on Brunei occupy a small segment of the wider scholarly world and Brown's reputation has been by no means dependent on it. His international recognition is based much more on his general works on the principles of social structure and on historical consciousness and human universals.

Some attention is therefore paid to Brown's important contribution to anthropological theory in his later work on Principles of Social Structure: Southeast Asia (1976) in which he considers the value of corporate-structural analysis and the principles on which corporations are based, concluding with a case-study of Brunei. In this study he examines, in comparative mode, the principles underlying incorporation and the generation of corporate forms: sex (gender), age, ethnicity, locality, descent, ritual and belief, common property interests, common occupation, rank, and voluntary association. Subsequently, his general comparative study Hierarchy, History and Human Nature: The Social Origins of Historical Consciousness (1988) took inspiration from his attempts to address certain issues in Brunei historiography in investigating the nature of what is recorded, remembered, or reproduced in Brunei history. Finally, his most widely-cited anthropological work, Human Universals (1991), is an exercise in evolutionary psychology, with its importance assigned to the role of the evolved nature of the human mind. Brown identifies the features of culture, society, language, and mind in what has been recorded among all peoples known to ethnography and history. He also explains how human universals relate to human nature and culture. Although Brown moved on from his Brunei research interests, he has indicated that his formative initial doctoral research (and see Brown, 1969) continued to have an influence on his more general thinking about society, culture, history, and human nature, and that his early interest in Brunei social stratification led him to ponder what it is to be human.

Brown has not been alone in his scholarly journey from Borneo to the wider world. The movement from a traditionally constructed ethnography of a particular community, place and time in Borneo to the definition and interpretation of the universal characteristics of what it is to be human and the bases of human nature, in other words, a science of humanity, was also travelled by Professors Derek Freeman and Rodney Needham. Freeman moved from what he perceived to be the life of an "ordinary" anthropologist among the Iban of Sarawak from the late 1940s through to the 1960s to one which was directed passionately, perhaps obsessively to the development of a new socio-cultural-biological "interactionist paradigm." For Freeman the days of British-influenced social structuralist analysis (an approach in which Brown was also trained in his early career), and the overriding importance of the social conditioning of human behavior were over from the mid-1960s when he experienced his "cognitive abreaction" in Kuching in 1961. Similarly, from remote Penan hunting-gathering communities in Sarawak in the 1950s and 1960s Needham progressively turned his attention to the study of the universal principles of classification, the unconscious selection of certain symbolic vehicles, the radical features of human experience and emotion, and the fundamental structures of the human mind and logic. Brown reaches a conclusion that Needham and Freeman also reached, that "human nature is essential to human culture" (2004: 8). The importance of Human Universals is confirmed by the inclusion of Brown's long list of universals in the Appendix to Steven Pinker's book The Blank Slate (2002: 435-439).

Though frequently cited in anthropology, sociology, and history and more general books on Brunei, Brown's Brunei monograph, for obvious reasons, does not have the resonance in general anthropology that his later work on history, human nature, and human culture holds. Just as in Needham's identification of primordial characters and primary factors in the human experience and in Freeman's exploration of the fundamental features of human nature and culture, then Brown subsequently joined them in extending these to an impressive list of human universals, though the three authors had different emphases and interests in the field of socio-cultural biology.

The project from which the celebratory volume on Donald Brown's Brunei research has emerged has been sponsored under the joint auspices of the Institute of Asian Studies and the Academy of Brunei Studies, Universiti Brunei Darussalam. All the contributors have connections with the university there, either as former or retired staff, currently serving staff, visiting researchers and teachers, and those who have taken an interest in and been supportive of the work of the university. Seven of the contributors currently hold posts at the university. The volume also contains some reprinted material (Horton, Kimball, Maxwell, and Evers) and one translation from French (de Vienne).

Provisional structure of the book and breakdown of chapters:

Prologue: On Brunei: Fifty Years Later (with a list of Donald Brown's publications on Brunei)... Donald E. Brown

1. Editorial Introduction Victor T. King and Stephen C. Druce

2. D.E. Brown's Structure and History of a Bornean Malay Sultanate (1970): The Fortieth Anniversary, (reprint)... A.V.M. Horton

3. Donald E. Brown's contribution to Brunei Studies and Anthropology... Victor T. King

Section 1: Pre-colonial Brunei and its origins

4. A comparative analysis of Brunei origin traditions with the wider Austronesian world... Stephen C. Druce

5. A Tale of Many Boni: A critical re-examination of some texts from the Song, Ming and Qing Dynasties... Johannes L. Kurz

6. Silsilah Raja-Raja Brunei: A survey of sources... Annabel Teh Gallop

7 Coronation Ritual and Myth of Foundation in Brunei: Sakai, Sjair and Silsilah (translated from French)... Marie-Sybille de Vienne

8 Brunei Malay: The Sha'er Reciter's Art (reprint)... Linda Amy Kimball

Section 2: Colonial and post-colonial Brunei

9. Monarchy in Brunei: past, present and future... Ooi Keat Gin

10. 'So near and yet so far': Shaikh A. M. Azahari and the abortive Brunei Rebellion of 1962... B. A. Hussainmiya

11. Rational bureaucracy and bureaucratic rituals in the Brunei Sultanate... Frank Fanselow

12. Hybrid pathways to orthodoxy: Bureaucratized exorcism, scientization and the transcendental powers of Japanese water-crystal photography in Brunei Darussalam... Dominik M. Miiller

13. The Golden Jubilee celebrations of Sultan Haji Sir Hassanal Bolkiah in 2017: the glory of Brunei hi story... Dato Paduka Haji Abdul Latif bin Haji Ibrahim

Section 3: The sultanate and its minorities

14. Inside or outside the mainstream? An ethnolinguistic study of the status of minority ethnic groups in Negara Brunei Darussalam... Noor Azam Haji-Othman and James McLellan

15. Social identity and corporation: Impacts of the administrative policy of the Brunei Sultanate on Dusun social organization... Pudarno Binchin

16. The place of Kadayan in traditional Brunei society (reprint)... Allen R. Maxwell

Section 4: Kampong Ayer and its transformations

17. Kampong Air (Ayer): Water settlements on the island of Borneo (reprint)... Hans-Dieter Evers

18. Development, change and modernization in Kampong Ayer over the last fifty years... Haji Tassim bin Haji Abu Bakar

19. Heritage Tourism at Kampong Ayer Water Village: Reaching UNESCO World Heritage status in Brunei Darussalam... Shafi Noor Islam

20. Concluding remarks: Looking forward... Victor T. King and Stephen C. Druce


Brown, D.E. 1969 Socio-political History of Brunei: A Bornean Malay Sultanate. Cornell University: PhD dissertation.

1970a Brunei: The Structure and History of a Bornean Malay Sultanate. Brunei: Brunei Museum Journal, Special Monograph of the Brunei Museum Journal, No 2.

1976 Principles of Social Structure; Southeast Asia. London: Gerald Duckworth and Co. Ltd; Boulder Colorado: Westview Press.

1988a Hierarchy, History and Human Nature: The Social Origins of Historical Consciousness. Tucson; University of Arizona Press.

1991 Human Universals. New York: McGraw-Hill.

2004 Human Universals, Human Nature, Human Culture'. Daedalus 133 (4): 47-54.

Pinker, Steven 2002 The Blank Slate. The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York: Viking Press.

Venue: Waterfront Hotel, Kuching. Sarawak, Malaysia

Date: November 14 -16, 2018


The 8th General Conference of the Asia-Europe Museum Network (ASEMUS) titled "New Curatorial Perspectives for a Changed World," was hosted by the Sarawak Museum and held at the Waterfront Hotel in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, between 14 and 16 November 2018.

Over 3 days, participants from across Asia and Europe took part in workshops, masterclasses, panels and case study presentations. The last day was dedicated to the discovery of the cultural and natural heritage of Sarawak and Borneo.

The 8th ASEMUS General Conference also enabled participants to discover the Sarawak Museum Campus, which aims to revive the international status of the Sarawak Museum and to build a new museum to showcase Sarawak's rich cultural and historical heritage.

The theme

The central topic addressed by the 8th ASEMUS General Conference was changes in the role of curators in the light of dramatic changes in the landscape within which museums operate. The world is becoming increasingly fractured and divided across nationalistic and ideological lines. Audiences have become more sophisticated and demanding. Technology, in particular, digital technologies, have revolutionized the delivery of knowledge and content to end users. In the meantime, issues of ethics and provenance have become more pertinent than ever before in museological practice.

The role and relevance of the museum and the curator in contemporary society is shifting in light of these changes. Speakers from European and Asian museums presented perspectives, experiences and best practices, offering conference participants practical insights into how their museums can respond and adapt.

The first day of the 8th ASEMUS General Conference, Wednesday 14 November, was devoted to training. 5 masterclasses and workshops, targeted to young professionals, addressed the following topics:

* Exhibition development

* Scientific communication

* Curating a space for communities

* Developing digital interactive and multimedia for exhibitions

* Collections management and care

The central day of the conference, 15 November, presented 3 panel discussions and presentations of case studies addressing a range of themes related to curating:

* The changing role of the museum and the curator

* Panel on "The Big Picture"--Museums in transition, addressing changes in structure and curatorial narratives

* Panel on "The Ethics of Collecting"--new standards and approaches

* Panel on "The Engaged Museum"--curating with the community

* Three case studies addressing these issues will also be presented

Finally, on 16 November participants chose among a set of cultural visits and excursions offered by the organizers. An optional one-day trek in the Rainforest of Borneo was offered for Saturday 17 November.

The 8th ASEMUS General Conference was organized by the Sarawak Museum Department with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports of the Sarawak State Government, Malaysia; in partnership with the Asia-Europe Museum Network (ASEMUS) and the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF).

Edited by Victor T. King and Stephen C. Druce
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Title Annotation:Forthcoming Book
Author:King, Victor T.; Druce, Stephen C.
Publication:Borneo Research Bulletin
Date:Jan 1, 2018

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