Printer Friendly

Notes from the editor.

The coming year--2008--marks the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Borneo Research Council. Among the Council's purposes are the promotion of scientific research in Borneo and the free flow of information regarding research activities and findings. During a meeting held in New Hampshire in September 1968, the founding members of the Council proposed that an occasional newsletter should be created to further these purposes. To be called the Borneo Research Bulletin, it would, in the words of its first "Coordinating Editor," Dr. Alfred B. Hudson, take as its principal aim "to facilitate the dissemination among interested scholars of information regarding proposed, ongoing, and completed research in all regions of Borneo" (BRB, 1969, 1(i): 1).

The first issue of the BRB (Vol. 1, No. 1) appeared the following year, in March 1969. It took the form of a five-page mimeographed newsletter. Ambitiously, A1 Hudson wrote in his editorial forward that, henceforth, "it was envisioned that the Bulletin would be put out three or four times a year, and that it would serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences related to research in Brunei, Sabah, Sarawak, and the provinces of Indonesian Borneo" (p. 1). In addition to a Coordinating Editor, the Bulletin had at the time several Contributing Editors, for example, Benedict Sandin representing Sarawak, Stephen Morris, the United Kingdom, and George Appell, the United States. While the idea of a forum remains very much alive today, the suggested time frame proved impractical. From 1969 through 1990, the BRB appeared twice yearly, as a semiannual publication. It soon outgrew its original newsletter format, however, and in 1991 it was decided, chiefly for reasons of economy and scale, to publish the BRB once a year. Since 1991, the Bulletin has thus appeared as the annual journal of the Borneo Research Council.

Soon after the appearance of the first issue, AI Hudson returned to Borneo under a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies to carry out his landmark survey of the indigenous languages of the island, and Dr. George N. Appell took over the editorship, sustaining and developing the Bulletin through the next five years. Beginning with Vol. 5, No. 2, the editorship was assumed for a year by Dr. Otto C. Doering, who was succeeded in turn by Professor Donald Brown in 1974. In his first issue as Editor, Don introduced the present BRB cover design with its logo of reversed views, front above and back below, of a Kayan shield. This replaced a prior logo, used in several previous issues, based on a carved design from a Bajau Laut boat. In 1975, with Vol. 7, No. 2, Professor Vinson Sutlive became editor of the BRB, a job he held for the next twenty years. Your current Editor assumed the editorship with Volume 27 in 1996. In 2003, with Volume 34, Dr. A.V.M. Horton assumed the newly created position of Book Review Editor and compiler of our annual bibliography section. In the same year, the Borneo Research Council established an international board of editors for its various publications, including the Bulletin (see BRB, 2003, 34: 9-10).

All of us who edit or contribute in other ways to the Borneo Research Bulletin do so as unpaid volunteers, since the Bulletin operates, as it has since 1969, without outside institutional support. The scope and quality of each issue therefore depends upon our contributors and readers, and, in this regard, I welcome your suggestions, comments, research reports, news and other communications.

Over the years, we have tried, with varying degrees of success, to serve the purposes set out by the founding members of the Council. Today, in addition to its printed form, the BRB is also available online through many major university libraries. Last year, our Book Review Editor informed me that a Google search for the BRB yielded 263,000 entries. "Not bad," as he put it, although, as he added, by way of perspective, a similar search for "Shakespeare" produced 46.4 million!

In This Volume

As in most past years, we open this issue with a number of memorials. As noted last year, a major figure in the anthropology of Borneo died just before the Bulletin went to press in 2006--Professor Rodney Needham. We therefore begin with a remembrance by Kirk Endicott, a former student of Rodney, describing what Professor Needham was like as a teacher, mentor, and friend. This is followed by an interview, originally recorded in 2000, in which Needham recalls his early fieldwork in Borneo in the 1950s. Next, Bob Reece pays tribute to a friend and colleague, The Rev. Max Saint; Graham Saunders writes of Hugh Hickling, and Vernon Porritt writes of Dato' Haji Mohamad Taha bin Ariffin. A.V.M. Horton concludes this section with an extended memorial for a number of persons associated with Negara Brunei Darussalam whose deaths occurred during the past year. Next year, in Volume 39, we will include a memorial for Robert Barrett, whose untimely death was also noted, with sadness, last year.

Once again, the Research Notes that follow cover a wide range of topics. In their opening Note, "Messengers or Tipsters? Some Cautious though Concluding Thoughts on Brunei-Dusun Augury," Eva Maria and Roger Kershaw revisit a classic topic in Bornean ethnography-bird omens and augury. They begin their essay with a welcome comparative overview of the literature. As they note, bird omens are perceived in some Bornean societies as "messages," conveying advice, warnings or encouragement from some higher-level spirits or gods. Traditional Iban augury represents, perhaps, our best documented instance. Here omens are commonly perceived as "messages" and the birds or animals that bear them are regarded as "messengers." The senders are typically upperworld gods and, indeed, the messengers themselves, in some instances, are thought to be manifestations of gods or their surrogates. The Iban, however, are highly pragmatic in the manner in which they read and make use of omens. In this regard, as the Kershaws note, to the degree that omens may be manipulated, or even deliberately avoided, there is a hint that they are perceived not merely as predictive, but also as causative, directly influencing the events that they are presumed to predict. For the Brunei Dusun, the Kershaws argue, omen-bearing birds and animals are thought of not as "messengers," but, rather, as "tipsters." Divine or spirit agency plays no part in dispatching them and so the omen-bearing creatures themselves cannot be described as "messengers." Nor, they tell us, did the Brunei Dusun have specialized augurs in the past. Here, perhaps, some precaution is in order. In communities like the Iban, where a name might be given to a particularly skilled augur (i.e., tuai burong), this person is by no means a specialist in the strict sense of the term. Augury is a notoriously contentious subject and those acknowledged as tuai burong are credited with widely varying degrees of authority.

Having established some comparative reference points, the Kershaws, in the second three-quarters of their paper, analyze the traditional system of augury of the Brunei Dusun and in two substantial appendices, they systematically document individual Brunei-Dusun omens, including those relating to dreams, thereby making a substantial and important contribution to the ethnographic literature. In the process, they also critically reassess previous writings on the topic of Brunei Dusun augury, including their own.

The next two Research Notes are topically related. Each deals with an enigmatic figure in the colonial history of what is today West Kalimantan. Both of these figures, in the colonial narratives of the time, Haji Abu Bakar and Pangeran Anom, were cast as "rebels" or "villains," but as Reed Wadley and Andrew Smith reveal, their stories are, in fact, considerably more complex. In the case of Abu Bakar, Wadley suggests that the Dutch may well have found it convenient to label his actions as a "rebellion," as they implicated a tangled web of trade, robbery, raiding, and cross-border connections involving the colonial government's own upriver agents. The case of Pangeran Anom is better known and, indeed, looms large in the history of early nineteenth-century Sambas. Smith, in his paper, "An 'Arch-villain' to be rehabilitated?," attempts to gain a clearer understanding of Pangeran Anom and the influence he exerted in the Sambas over a remarkably heterogeneous population by examining his early history. He then reassesses the acts of"piracy" that he was accused of committing, in order, as he puts it, to determine "whether Pangeran Anom has been ill-judged by history." This reassessment raises interesting questions regarding the nature of early nineteenth-century trade in western Borneo.

In the Research Note that follows, "The Development of a New Religion in Central Kalimantan," Dr. Martin Baier traces the development of the Hindu Kaharingan religion of Central Kalimantan from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. His Note itself is a summary abstract of a book which Dr. Baier has recently published in Indonesian on the Hindu Kaharingan religion. Kaharingan developed initially among the Ngaju Dayaks and in his essay Baier discusses the elements of traditional Ngaju cosmology and ritual practice on which this new religion drew as its source as well as documenting the powerful influence of Protestant Christianity. Particularly interesting is his discussion of the way in which traditional Ngaju deities, spirits, and cosmology were restructured and rationalized in line with state ideology, and the important role played by the Japanese Occupation in the establishment of a self-conscious and formally-organized Kaharingan community.

Herwig Zahorka, in the next Research Note, describes a type of ritual curing known as belian sentiu performed, typically over four consecutive nights, by shamans in a small Benuaq Dayak community, present on the Ohong (or Ohookng) River, in the Kutai Barat district of East Kalimantan, which he refers to as the Benuaq Ohookng. These people, he tells us, belong to a larger grouping known as the Luangan. Indeed, the rituals that Zahorka describes in his paper show many points of similarity with those discussed by lsabell Herrmans in her essay "Making Tactile: Ganti diri figures and the magic of concreteness among the Luangan Dayaks," that appeared two years ago in the BRB (see Vol. 36, 2005). The notion of "making tactile" seems highly relevant here as well, as one of the striking features of belian sentiu rituals is the elaborate use they make of physical objects and ritual constructions. In this regard, as a professional forester, Zahorka makes a useful contribution by identifying the specific plant species used in building these constructions, fashioning ritual paraphernalia, or making offerings. In describing Benuaq Ohookng ideas about the etiology of illness, the author stresses the role of spirit agents, particularly what he describes as "territorial spirits," that is to say, spirits identified with specific locales in the surrounding environment. Some of the plant species used in curing are associated, he argues, with particular disease-causing spirits, and one interesting notion he advances is that these associations are based, at least in some instances, on both plants and spirits being identified with the same locales.

In the curing process, Zahorka emphasizes what he sees as the two primary tasks that the shamans must perform, first, extracting disease from the afflicted part of the patient's body and returning it to the disease-causing spirit responsible and, second, recovering the patient's lost body-part soul and re-inserting it back into the afflicted part of the body. Each task, he argues, requires its own set of ritual objects. In the first case, these include "spittle images," wooden figures representing the disease-causing spirit onto which the patient spits out the disease, and, in the second, objects serving as "exchange souls," for trading with the spirits in exchange for the patient's body-part soul.

Masahiro Ichikawa, in the next Research Note, takes up a topic that has occupied a number of contributors in the past (most recently, see BRB, Vols. 30 and 34), land tenure, and in particular, in this case, rules of land transfer and inheritance. The author's work is based on a short-term study of one Iban Ionghouse in the Miri Division of Sarawak, supplemented by briefer visits to 14 others in both the Miri and Sri Aman Divisions. Like a number of other Ibanists, including your Editor, lchikawa stresses in his essay that Iban notions of land tenure are predicated on managing the land as a continuing family patrimony over multiple generations. This view, it might be added, reverses that of an earlier generation of colonial agronomists who saw the Iban very largely as rootless and profligate in their use of land, a view still echoed in the developmentalist ideology of some sectors of the current Sarawak government. The author's specific interest is with the inheritance of land from parents to children and transfers of land upon divorce, death, and remarriage. Despite a voluminous literature on the subject, Ichikawa adds some useful new data and insights, particularly stressing, for example, the significant distinction between 'old land' (tanah lama ') and 'new land' (tanah baru), that is, in part, land obtained through inheritance in contrast to that acquired in the course of marriage, and the calculating of "shares" in partitioning family land holdings. His general conclusion is that Iban rules of inheritance and transfer are "more systematic" and "fixed" than previous observers have reported. Here, however, the data he presents seem to suggest that, in matters of land, as in many other areas of Iban life, rules are subject to negotiation, with various possible outcomes.

The next two papers both concern constitutional change in the Malaysian states of Borneo, Sarawak and Sabah. The first by Vernon Porritt looks at Sarawak and examines two questions: first, how Sarawak, prior to its joining the Federation of Malaysia, developed its own constitution, and, second, how amendments made to the federal constitution since then through 1988, have affected Sarawak in several areas, including education, immigration, and religion.

The final Research Note in this volume by Bob Reece has an unusual history. It was originally written, not as an academic study, but as a legal affidavit that was submitted as supporting evidence to the Hong Kong Supreme Court. As Reece explains in his introduction, the document came to be written in 1992 as the "expert opinion" of a trained historian in a legal case involving the Malaysian government versus Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan, the brother of Datuk Pairin Kitingan, at the time, Chief Minister of Sabah. In his affidavit, which Reece presents here in its entirety, he describes the special constitutional status accorded to Sabah and Sarawak by Kuala Lumpur at the time of Malaysia's formation and traces how subsequent constitutional changes have worked to erode much of this status. Having, many years ago, read a copy of the original affidavit, your Editor has long urged Bob to publish some version of this extremely valuable work. As a close observer of the political events of the time, Reece presents the most cogent and insightful account ever written of the political circumstances and motives that have shaped the constitutional status of the Malaysian Borneo states. We are delighted therefore to be able to publish this affidavit together with the author's explanatory introduction.

Finally, the second part of Dr. Mika Okushima's two-part essay describing the historical migrations of the Kayanic-speaking peoples of north-central and northeastern Borneo will appear next year in Volume 39 of the BRB. The Editor greatly regrets that the length of the present volume made it impossible to include it in this year's issue.

The Ninth Biennial BRC Conference, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 29-31 July, 2008

The Ninth Biennial Conference of the Borneo Research Council will be held on the Universiti Malaysia Sabah campus, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, over a three-day period, July 29-31,2008. Jointly organized by the Kadazandusun Chair and the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, the conference theme is "Borneo on the Move: Continuity and Change." A photographic competition and exhibition on this theme will be held in conjunction with the conference from 28 July until 1 August.

Further information can be found on the conference website: http://sepanggar. wordpress.com. See also the Announcements section in this issue of the BRB.

Conference Chairperson:

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Jaqueline Pugh-Kitingan

Kadazandusun Chair, Universiti Malaysia Sabah

Regional Vice President (for Sabah), Borneo Research Council

Tel: +6-088-320000 ext 1790, Fax: +6-088-320242

Email: jacquie@ums.edu.my

Registration:

RM 350 for participants and presenters; RM 175 for students. Owing to rising costs, the organizers regret that they have had to revise conference registration fees. There will be no early registration discount. The conference email address is: brc2008ums@gmail.com.

World Rainforest Music Festival

The World Rainforest Music Festival will be held in Sarawak 10-13 July, 2008. As in past years, the venue is the Sarawak Cultural Village, Damai. Those attending the BRC conference may wish to come early to attend the festival as well.

Thanks and acknowledgments

Once again I take this opportunity to thank all of those who assisted me during the year with article reviews, editorial or technical assistance, or who contributed news items, announcements, comments, suggestions, or bibliographic items. The list, as always, is a long one, but here I would like to acknowledge in particular George Appell, Ann Appleton, Martin Baler, Dee Baer, Rob Cramb, Kirk Endicott, Mike Heppell, A.V.M. Horton, Roger Kershaw, Han Knapen, Jayl Langub, Paolo Maiullari, Jacqueline Pugh-Kitingan, Vic Porritt, Bob Reece, Graham Saunders, Bernard Sellato, Kenneth Sillander, Andrew Smith, Otto Steinmayer, Vinson Sutlive, Reed Wadley, and Herwig Zahorka. I am grateful, too, to Mr. Alan Morse for the work he did in preparing the present volume for publication and to the other members of the BRC staff in Phillips, Maine, for, once again, overseeing its printing, distribution, and mailing. Alan Morse also provided invaluable help with the reproduction of photographs and through his computer skills has helped us improve the formatting and appearance of the BRB. in his role as Book Review Editor and compiler of our annual abstracts and bibliography sections, I am especially indebted to A.V.M. Horton. As always, Dr. Horton has also been a regular correspondent throughout the year and a frequent source of news items, memorials, and information on recent publications. Finally, a special thanks goes to my wife, Louise Klemperer Sather, who, as our Assistant Editor, carefully read through all of the papers, reviews, announcements, and brief communications that appear in this volume. Her editorial skills, patience, and close attention to detail have been an invaluable help to us all.

Member Support

Here we wish to express our thanks to the following individuals for their contribution over the last year to the BRC endowment and general funds.

ENDOWMENT FUND: Ms. E. Kim Adams, Antiquarian Booksellers "Gemilang", Mr. Ralph Arbus, Dr. Clare Boulanger, Dr. Michael R. Dove, Professor Virginia Hooker, Dr. Michael B. Leigh, Ms. Charity Appell McNabb, Professor H. Arlo Nimmo, Mr. John D. Pearson, Dr. Anne Schiller, Dr. W. D. Wilder, and Dr. Robert L. Winzeler.

GENERAL FUND: Ms. E. Kim Adams, Antiquarian Booksellers "Gemilang," Mr. Ralph Arbus, Mr. A. J. Bacon, Dr. Adela Baer, Dr. Martin Baler, Dr. Clare Boulanger, Dr. Donald Brown, Dr. & Mrs. Allen Drake, Ms. Katherine Edwards, Ms. Judith Heimann, Mr. John W. McCarthy, Mr. John D. Pearson, Ms. Vicki Pearson-Rounds, Mr. David Phillips, Dato Seri John Pike, Dr. Robert Pringle, Dr. & Mrs. Clifford Sather, Professor F. Andrew Smith, Dr. Jack Stuster, Mr. Nathaniel Tam, Fr. Brian Taylor, Dr. Phillip Thomas, Mr. James Wickes, Dr. W. D. Wilder, Mr. William Wilkinson, Dr. Robert Winzeler, Dr. Leigh Wright, Dr. Patricia Yamaguchi-Matusky, and Mr. Herwig Zahorka.

We thank each of these individuals for their generous support.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Borneo Research Council, Inc
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Borneo Research Bulletin
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 1, 2007
Words:3262
Previous Article:Borneo bibliography 2006.
Next Article:Rodney Needham: 1923-2006.


Related Articles
EDITORIAL PAGES GET SHORT END OF BUDGET, STAFFING.
Notes from the editor.
Notes from the editor.
Notes from the editor.
Notes from the editor.
Notes from the editor.
Unbounded misrepresentation: editorial writers speak for institutions.
Becoming old-fashioned: bringing readers inside the opinions: an editorial writer interviews himself.
Editorial note: new interim editor-in-chief.
Notes from the editor.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters